Thursday, September 28, 2017

White Township, Warren County, New Jersey: Farmer who's suing county fair ... The balloons scare my livestock!



Hot air balloons may want to steer clear of Lisa Van Horn's farm during next year's Warren County Farmers' Fair.

The White Township farmer is suing the county fair -- which includes a hot air balloon festival -- for allegedly frightening her livestock on multiple occasions, and at least once inciting a stampede.

The annual weeklong fair marked its 80th year this summer, when it ran from late July into early August. Each year, the balloon festival includes events including tethered and free-flying rides, along with some special races -- one where balloonists try to drop bean bags on a giant X, and another where they drop of bicyclists who have to find their way back to the fairgrounds.

Up to 30 balloons were launching each night of fair weather during this year's fair.

It is organized by the Warren County Farmers' Fair Association, which is named as the sole defendant in the lawsuit filed Sept. 19 at state Superior Court in Belvidere.

The association did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Van Horn's farm is located in the 100 block of Foul Rift Road in White Township, about seven miles -- as the balloon flies -- from the fairgrounds in Harmony Township. Online listings label the farm's address as RiverView Ranch, which provides boarding for horses and riding lessons.

The lawsuit specifically refers to the 2015 farmers' fair, when several animals were injured and at least one calf killed in a stampede allegedly caused by balloons flying over the farm. Some flew low or landed on the property, the sight of the balloons and sound of their burners scared the animals, the lawsuit says.

Complaints in years before went unheeded, the document says. Each year, the farm must allegedly cancel riding lessons and decline boarders during the fair.

The lawsuit charges the fair with counts of negligence and trespassing, seeks liability that would repay damages and an injunction to prevent the fair from flying balloons over her property.

Problems with the balloons have not been "as extreme" since 2015, said Daniel Dugan, Van Horn's attorney. However, they still want the farm designated, essentially, as a no-fly zone.

"We were really hoping to resolve this matter without going to court," Dugan said. "We were stonewalled at every turn."

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