Sussex County History Today: Time for the Fair

| 31 Jul 2023 | 10:32

Summer is a lot of fun with the warm weather. Swimming, running. fishing along with hiking and the outdoor life are part of this anticipated season.

A highlight of the summer for me is the New Jersey State Fair-Sussex County Farm & Horse Show, with the horses and cows; the yearly London broil sandwiches and corn on the cob; checking to see if I won in the photography entry (only once for me); and the many exhibits of bees, embroidery and paintings, all of which show the talent of our county. And you can’t forget the Queen of the Fair.

The old Branchville Fair is now the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show and, proudly, the New Jersey State Fair.

A big event for me at the fair is the Historian Awards. This year, we have a lot to cover during the hour or so on the first Saturday of the fair.

After the introduction and the respectful Pledge to the Flag, we will award outstanding work in the area of history in our county.

First up will be a favorite: the Young Historian Awards.

We have several groups of awards:

• Ben Franklin (Grade 4): This is a new award to cover the earlier years.

• Babe Ruth (Grade 8)

• Thomas Edison (Grade 12)

• George Washington (a senior citizen who has contributed significant work over the years).

This year, we have a lively set of winners.

• For the Ben Franklin Award, I am pleased to announce the winners are Wyatt Fieldhouse and Vanessa Kelly. These students are from Hardyston Elementary School with the excellent history teacher Holly Romahn. She is super happy to have them with their over-the-top interest in our local history. They have dug around and looked for historical artifacts in the area of likely discovery, in their case in the Snufftown section of the township. These rising fifth-graders are sure to make a great impact on our county with their enthusiastic pursuit of history.

• The Babe Ruth Award goes to Mikey Kitchen and Tara Armstrong. These Franklin Borough students were very helpful in caring for an oak tree sapling. Franklin has the venerated Old Oak Tree in front of the school, estimated have been observing the passage of time since 1740. The sapling is from the ancient Salem Oak, perhaps the oldest known oak in New Jersey under which Quakers and the Lenni Lenape negotiated in 1675. Unfortunately, it fell several years ago. Mikey and Tara volunteered to water this valuable sapling for future students to enjoy and perhaps rest in the shade of its cover and contemplate how the world has progressed.

• For high school students, we have Tiziana Maldonado and Landon Tenyeri. Tiziana has been an avid student of history, appreciating monuments during family travels and trying to understand our local historical events. Landon is a June graduate of Sparta High School. He has been a solid advocate of preserving our local history and infrastructure and an earnest and energetic supporter of rails to trails in the county.

The Historian Awards program is made possible through the generous support of the Sussex County commissioners.

The Historian Awards will be presented at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5 at the Ernest Kosa Sussex County Building, also known as the County Building, during the fair. You are welcome to attend!

Next is our ever-popular Sussex County Historical Markers. There were eight applications for the markers this year, requiring thoughtful decisions from our committee.

Committee members were esteemed county historians Jennie Sweetman, Wayne McCabe, Mario Poggi and myself.

This year’s recipients, for whom the county will help fund half the cost of the markers:

• Keen’s Mill in Stillwater.

• The Academy in Stillwater.

• Shapannock in Walpack.

Additionally, each year we do repairs to signs that have experienced damage. We also do work on sites, such as the Potter’s Field sign (last year) or the fencing at the county park in Newton. Public input on this is welcomed.

We also have a category, not frequented but open, for lesser-known categories, including marginalized people, women and those not usually recognized.

All funding is supplied through the county commissioners for the benefit of the county heritage.

Bill Truran, Sussex County historian, can be reached at