Last September, the inaugural Open Space Pace & Festival of Horses, an exhilarating day of free, family-oriented events in celebration of our state’s animal - the horse - drew over 3,000 to Freehold Raceway. This year, I urge you to experience our region’s newest and completely different outdoor fall festival when the 2nd Annual Open Space Pace & Festival of Horses returns with even more entertainment, vendors, harness racing and surprises on Saturday, September 21. Mark your calendars, bring your friends and family and join the parade!

            Beginning at 10 a.m., a festive parade of over 100 horses, led by costumed riders from Medieval Times will march down Route 537 (Main St.), through historic downtown Freehold, past a reviewing stand at the Monmouth County Hall of Records and on to Freehold Raceway. Last year, as a staunch supporter of the state’s equine industry, creator of our county’s Save the Horse Committee and a member of the Open Space Pace Planning Committee, I was proud to moderate the parade from the podium. This year, I am honored to have been chosen Parade Grand Marshall. As such, I look forward to traveling the route along with some of New Jersey’s premier equine leaders and finest horsemen and horsewomen from a variety of stables and organizations.

            While majestic and beautiful, horses are serious business in New Jersey, supporting thousands of jobs. The success of this event bolsters breeding and training farms, hay and grain producers, stable workers, suppliers, veterinarians and other businesses that support the state’s estimated 42,500 horses and 7,200 equine facilities. The Rutgers Equine Science Center estimates the state’s equine industry is worth about $4 billion, creating a profit of about $1.1 billion each year.

            At the track, you will discover a car show, food trucks, children’s activities, a petting zoo, DJ music, demonstrations, celebrity amateur races, under-saddle races, giveaways, face painters and much more! A rousing jousting demonstration by Medieval Times will add to the pageantry and excitement. The “Babe Ruth of Harness Racing," retired Canadian harness racer Hervé Filion will be among the celebrity guests.

            In addition to over 30 vendors, participants in the Open Space Pace include the Monmouth County Park System and Office of Public Information and Tourism, Rutgers Extension Service, 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Horsemen’s Association of Millstone, the Horse Club of Central New Jersey, the Pleasure Horse Club of Central New Jersey, Coyote West Equestrian Stables, the Colts Neck Trail Riders, corporate sponsors and more.

            Twelve Under-Saddle races will each benefit a different non-profit organization involved with horses, agriculture and open space preservation. Checks will be presented at the end of each race in the Winner’s Circle. Last year, over $14,000 was raised for these groups. Photo opportunities will be plentiful, so don’t forget your cameras!

            The popular Eddie Testa Band will perform following the day’s last race at about 5 p.m. Rock ‘n roll icon and New Jersey native Southside Johnny and his Asbury Jukes will play again this year. Tickets are $35 each – quite a bargain! Those who attend the day’s events are welcome to remain outside the paid seating area and enjoy the show. A spectacular 27-minute fireworks display will light up the sky following the concert.

            Open Space Pace President Sam Landy, owner of Congress Hill Farm in Monroe Township, notes that, “Anything that’s good for horse racing is good for open space and New Jersey. As this event grows over time, it will fill hotels, restaurants and local businesses. We want to expose the public to Standardbred horses and racing and attract new fans to rejuvenate and perpetuate the industry.”

            It is essential to our traditions and quality of life to support horse racing, farming and equestrian activities. Please join us and your neighbors as we celebrate the horse, keep horse-related operations viable and provide individuals and families a fabulous, memorable day that can be enjoyed by all ages. For more information, visit www.OpenSpacePace.com. See you there!

Lillian G. Burry

Monmouth County Freeholder