If you’ve ever been to the New Jersey State Fair in Augusta, N.J., you can’t miss Aldo Sayre. He’s the 100-year-old volunteer who starts off the fair each year with his famous ‘rooster crow,’ a loud and quirky tradition that Sayre says has been around since 1942.
“Mr. Smith, the president of the fair back then, volunteered me for the horse show in 1939,” said Aldo. “The boys I volunteered with were some of my dear old friends.”
Those friends, along with Aldo, would later have to halt their volunteering in the 1940s, when World War II began. Aldo enlisted in the Navy, where he served throughout the war.
One of those friends he made during the fair, Luther Plumer, died in action in 1945. “He left a little girl who he never saw,” said Aldo. “She now lives in New Mexico, but every year since she comes to the fair and always asks me about her father.”
Aldo would later start volunteering again after the war, and was nominated as Farm and Horse Show President in 1976. One of the largest changes he oversaw as president was making the move from the original location in Branchville to its now permanent location in Augusta.
Aldo said he put up 26 acres of his own farm in Frankford as collateral, but he still had no idea how to make a dairy farm in Augusta into what the fairgrounds would soon become. So he called in some help from a friend.
“I asked one of my college friends from Penn State, Harold Pellow, to join the board, since he was a very accomplished engineer,” said Aldo. “He and his wife Lois have now been with the board for 47 years.”
Aldo said bringing the Pellows into the board is one of his proudest accomplishments, as they were able to successfully create a beautiful fairgrounds into what it is today.
“One of my favorite memories is when we moved to the new fairgrounds, and we held a huge parade from Route 206, all the way to the fairgrounds,” said Aldo. “It was a great day.”
Aldo says he still helps out with the fair by attending board meetings, helping out where he’s needed, and of course, to ‘rooster crow’ at the start of the fair.
“I love seeing how the fair has evolved, and there’s always something new and different each year,” said Aldo. “I feel as if I’m still a part of it.”