Table Talk: Field Days Food
A weekly blog about everything from farming food to cooking itFood stands lined the dirt paths of the fairgrounds, their colorful signs screaming “Zeppoles!” “‘Fresh squeezed’ lemonade!” “Fried Oreos!” “Italian sausage!” Yesterday was the first day of the 51st annual Addison County Fair and Field Days, and it was already crowded.The people strolling the paths, licking ice cream, drinking sodas, eating delicious-smelling fried things had whipped my head into a frenzied state, and I was hungry.The food vendors were a mixed crowd—some had traveled for hours to get here and spend months on the road each year, doing the fair and carnival circuit. Some were local vendors, open just for the fair and for other small events around. Most, however, had been coming to the fair for many years. As I approached the sausage stand near the entrance, Vincent Loosemara nodded in my direction.“What can I do for you, honey?” he asked as he pushed a pile of onions across the greased cooktop. An older man with “Mike” tattooed across his upper arm looked on, taking the occasional order.Vincent needed to practice talking to the press, said Mike. Vincent said he had been working at the booth for four years, and that his uncle owns the business, which is based out of Bellows Falls, Vt.“But we’ve been coming here for 19 years,” added Mike, hovering in the background.Vincent cooks sausage for five months every summer, driving from one fair to another all over Vermont, Massachussetts and Connecticut. In the off-season, he takes on part-time jobs.The jobs are nothing compared to his summers: Vincent spends twelve hours at a time standing in the booth, making sausages. But he says he wouldn’t trade the job for anything.“I like the carny life,” said Vincent. “I like camping, meeting cool people — new people.”Further down the path was a truck retrofitted with a sink, a stove, shelves and a deep-fryer; “Dan’s Van” was painted on the side.“Dan was my father,” said Doug Heath, who is from Bristol. Waiting on food from Dan's VanIndependent photo/Trent Campbell Twenty years ago Dan Heath bought the van — already 13 years old by then — and fixed it up, taking it around to events in Addison County for the next seven years.This wasn’t Dan’s first foray into the food business. Over 40 years ago Doug’s father, a plumber by trade, had a food van that he parked on the Bristol Town Green during band concerts. Each of Doug’s 11 siblings took shifts.After his father retired, Doug and his wife Linda took the business over, and have sold sandwiches, French fries and hamburgers at Field Days every year since. For the rest of the summer, they go to other events in the area: sports games, horse shows, the Bristol Fourth of July celebration, and the occasional construction site.“We have a good reputation,” said Linda. “The people who have eaten here before come back.”Business has been hard for the past two years. Last year they raised their prices because of the rise in gas prices; this year they have kept prices steady in the hopes that people will spend more at events close to home. Still, the couple keeps on.“We’ve had some really good years in this van,” said Doug. “And I’ve had events where I’ve made as much in one day as a normal man makes in a month. Once or twice a year.”While Dan’s Van is a fixture at Field Days, nothing is more of a fixture than one of the only buildings on the grounds not owned by Field Days. The quaint wooden Sugarhouse is owned by the Addison County Maple Sugarmakers’ Association and has been there since 1975.Barbara Rainville has been managing the Sugarhouse for about seven years.“I like to watch the little kids, or people that aren’t from here, trying to learn about maple,” she said.Barbara learned to sugar at a young age — her grandparents, Fletcher and Hattie Brown of Lincoln, harvested sap from their maple trees every spring.“When I was eight or nine, that’s what you did in the spring — you went down in the woods. I did a lot of homework in the sugar house over the years,” she said.Now Barbara collects sap from only about three trees on her property. During most of the year she does sales and marketing for Maple Landmark, a wooden toy company in Middlebury. But during the lead up to Field Days, she returns to the maple syrup business — she organizes and coordinates schedules for the Sugarhouse, making sure everything comes together neatly for the fair.This year she had some extra work to do: the Sugarmakers’ Association just bought a creemee machine for the Sugarhouse, which has two flavors: maple walnut and vanilla. This is on top of all the old favorites, like milkshakes and cotton candy, 25 cent maple pops, maple cream, maple bread, and Barbara’s favorite: maple squares from Otter Creek Bakery. There’s probably no way to sample everything in five days without experiencing a lot of stomach pain. So choose carefully, and enjoy.