History of the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show
The Sussex County Farm and Horse Show has been around for many years, starting out as a 3 day show started by Branchville businessmen in September 1919. This was the beginning of the Branchville Riding Club. This was so long ago, horses were still being used as transportation in Sussex County! This club was for recreational riding and the members traveled to events around the country.
Walter R. Wright was the president of the Branchville Riding Club in 1923 and with the help of Miss Lydia Bale, a prominent local equestrian, organized a show for their students that was a huge success. Walter R. Wright was the proprietor of Rolison Farm in Culvers Lake. Because of the success of this first show, the Branchville Riding Club organized an open show the following year. It was held at Ackerson Field, Ross’s Corner. This show became an annual event for several years before moving to the William L. Bass Farm on Old Newton Road in 1926. At this new location they charged 25 cents for admission and offered ribbons and trophies to exhibitors.
There was a long break however due to the Great Depression where the shows were not held again till October 7, 1933. That show was called the Branchville Community Horse Meet. The show was held at the grounds of the Selected Risks Insurance Company(Selective Insurance Group, Inc.) in Branchville, NJ. The horse show would be held at this location for the next 43 years. The Founder of Selective Risk Insurance, D.L.B. Smith invited the show and being a horseman, participated in the show as well.
The show in 1933 was a success and made $280.43 which was donated to the Sussex County Tuberculosis League. There were 15 classes with 51 participants that year. In light of the success of this show, the Sussex County Horse Show Association was formed. Augustus S. Whitmore was elected President, W.R Decker, Secretary and Lydia Bale as Treasurer.
Numbers for the shows in 1934 and 1935 doubled with more than 1000 spectators! During the 1935 show, the first “queen of the fair”competition took place.
In 1936 The Sussex County Horse Show was officially incorporated. Horse Team Pulling was the big event this year with Mike and Ike pulling a record of 9,840 pounds. This team was owned by William H. Sanford and Son of Sparta Township. The record stood for almost 20 years when Bill and Rock pulled 10,695 pounds in 1955! This team owned by Harold Daniels of Newark Valley, New York.
In 1938, the show was the biggest outdoor show with 3,000 spectators in the eastern US. Only one show was bigger than the Sussex County Horse Show which was the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden.
In 1940 the representative of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Francis Morrow, suggested that the horse show merge with a few of the other agricultural groups to form the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show. This was a non-profit organization with 18 people signing the incorporation papers on April 26, 1940. The show would now offer a horse show as well as agricultural events and competitions. The goal was to create and “old fashioned fair”. The new show would have their first 3 day show August 8,9,10, 1940. The new show included 42 classes, 104 horses in the main show ring, 75 cattle in the dairy ring and 14 draft teams and country fair.
After the annual Sussex County Horse Show in 1941 the show was cancelled for the duration of WWII till 1945. In 1946 the show returned and at their first meeting voted in Dr. George Yeaton as the President. He served until 1965. In 1947 it grew to a 4 ring show and had 10,000 tickets sold to spectators!