Olde Freehold Day, one of Freehold Borough’s most enduring and popular community events, will return to Lake Topanemus Park, Pond Road, Freehold Township, from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 6. The event is a celebration of hometown and heritage.
Lake Topanemus is owned by Freehold Borough. The park is overseen by the Lake Topanemus Commission, which is comprised of residents of Freehold Borough and Freehold Township.
Olde Freehold Day, which dates back to 1976, was envisioned as a celebration of
community, according to Roger Kane, a former mayor of Freehold Borough.
“My brother Richard (who was Freehold Borough’s recreation director) and I were talking one day, long before any of the towns had their town days, and we said we should have an Olde Freehold Day like a big get-together, a one-day party/reunion and have it at Lake Topanemus and just make it a festive day,” recounted Kane, whose family has roots in the
area that go back more than 100 years.
“We tried to keep all the prices low so anybody could go with a $20 bill and a family of four could have a great day. In those days we had service organizations use it as a fundraiser.
“They would cook the food … we tried to have each (organization) doing something different so everybody had a fair shot at making some money. It was just to celebrate the town and to help fund some of the nonprofits in town,” he said.
“There is a lot of history here and a good majority of the people (who attend) are second and third generation in Freehold,” Kane said. “So they have a lot of memories and a lot of
friends still here. And people who moved away come back for the day to keep their
ties. You know, this is small-town America and it’s a great little town.”
After serving on the event committee for 35 years, Kane recently stepped down as chair of the Olde Freehold Day Committee, which plans and oversees the annual celebration.
Although times have changed, the event organizers still believe a family should be able to enjoy the day at a modest cost. The activities at the event are free, with support from several benefactors, mainly local businesses, Kane said.
Freehold Borough Councilwoman Annette Jordan is one of a group of about 15 people who comprise the Olde Freehold Day Committee.
“It’s a real labor of love,” said Jordan. “It is morphing into an amazing day for the whole community. We have civic groups that come and some of the church groups. The American Legion comes and helps with the parking, the Elks come, they sell hot dogs and hamburgers. The fire department comes and does the beer garden.
“It’s very, very community oriented and we try to make it as affordable as we can,
especially for families. We solicit sponsors and this year we have such a generous sponsor, Keystone Contracting, they have given a huge donation so we can do all of the kids’ stuff – the bounce house and the rock climbing wall and all of the arts and crafts – it’s all free,” Jordan said.
Rich Kane, the former director of Freehold Borough’s recreation programs, explained how the event began.
“Years ago there was a film called ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and in the middle of that movie the entire town rolls up the sidewalks and goes out into this big old field to
“We were looking for something to do to celebrate the birth of our nation, 1776 to
1976, so I went to my brother and said, ‘Roger, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we have
an old-fashioned town day?’
“We can go to Lake Topanemus and roll back the prices, we’ll get all of the
organizations in town to do something. Roger was mayor and the first question he
asked was if I had the money in the budget and my answer was, ‘No, but why should
that stop us? It’s a great idea.’
“So he said we would figure something out and we did. We went to each of the
organizations and each said it was a great idea. We planned it for the first Saturday of July 1976. We ran off a gazillion fliers announcing the first Olde Freehold Day at the pond …
“The first crowd we had was thousands of people because everybody knew about it. We started this day and it just took off. People who are now adults started coming to the event as kids. It’s just a neat thing. One year we made up T-shirts that said ‘Olde Freehold Day.’ On mine it says ‘Founder’ on the front and I still wear it,” Kane said.
The entertainment lineup for the 2022 edition of Olde Freehold Day is as follows: noon to 12:45 p.m., NickEL; 1-2 p.m., Step Aside; 2:15-3 p.m., Half Brothers; 3:30-5 p.m., Eddie Testa Band.
Community groups that will participate include the Lake Topanemus Commission, the Freehold Fire Department, Knights of Columbus Council 1672, Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 16, the Freehold Public Library, Neighborhood Connections to Health, Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Methodist Church of Freehold.
Organizers will hold a Moment of Remembrance for Sheryl Mott and Lee Deedmeyer, both of whom recently passed away and both of whom were instrumental in the success of Olde Freehold Day for many years.
Deedmeyer was the leader of Mission Dance and served on the event committee for many years, and Mott was involved in recreation programs in Freehold Borough, including Olde Freehold Day.
The stage at Lake Topaneumus Park is named in honor of the late Ronnie Davis, who helped organizers secure entertainment for the event for many years.
Parking is available on the Robertsville Road side of the park, or attendees may park at the Monmouth County Courthouse, Court Street, Freehold Borough, and take a shuttle bus to Lake Topanemus Park.