Fair filled with telling moments

Editor’s note: Addison County Fair and Field Days provides a calliope of sights and sounds that tantalize the senses and tickle the imagination, and the 63rd annual edition last week was no exception. As always, the five-day event proved too much to capture in one place, but we’re presenting a few verbal snapshots from the fairgrounds along with some fantastic photographs by Trent Campbell and Andrea Warren.
NEW HAVEN — At the end of the Addison County Fair and Field Days ladies’ skillet toss competition last Wednesday, Donna Monroe stood as the three-time champion, but she hasn’t let it go to her head.
“It feels really good,” she said, holding up her blue ribbon with a laugh. “It’s so much fun.”
The family hails from Maryland, but their Field Days roots run deep: Donna’s mother-in-law was Frances Monroe, longtime coordinator of the Field Days Home and Garden Department.
Donna has been competing in the skillet toss since it began a few years ago.
In Wednesday’s cast-iron skillet toss, she went up against 24 other women, age 16 and older, and four girls 15 and younger. The event works exactly as it sounds. Contestants take turns tossing a cast iron skillet down a straight line — in this case, on the Field Days tractor pad. They’re scored by the number of feet the skillet travels before it lands (not including bounces), minus the distance from the line.
Each contestant gets two throws, and the longest throw wins.
The Wednesday competition was not without its challenges. Two skillets broke early on, and by the end of the event the handle had snapped off of the third skillet, forcing the women to adapt their tossing styles.
More than one member of the crowd commented on the quality of the skillets: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.”
Donna’s farthest toss rang in at 48 feet. Her daughter, Rachel, took 5th place with a throw of 38.9 feet.
So with another win under her belt, will Donna be practicing to keep her skillet toss crown next year?
“Never,” she said with a laugh.
“She always says she’s going to, but she doesn’t,” Rachel added.
—    Andrea Suozzo
Crowd honors returning heroes
Before the No. 1 Auto Parts Demo Derby started on Thursday, three men in uniform visited the press box to speak with the announcer.
They were members of the Vermont National Guard’s 101st Mountain Division’s Field Artillery Unit, they said, just back to their home base in Vergennes after serving a yearlong tour of duty in Afghanistan.
As well as a welcome home announcement, the trio — Staff Sgt. Matthew Lang and Specialists Andrew Gebo and Zach Hust — also hoped that Rudy, the announcer, would mention their nearby tent promoting the Guard.
Of course, Rudy was happy to oblige and gave them a pen and paper to write out an announcement. When the pen didn’t work, they borrowed a pencil from an onlooker.
Also in the press box was Jacob Giles, there to sing the national anthem, his mom and another woman.
As Rudy read the announcement, the soldiers lined up in parade rest along the open windows at the front of the box.
Then the applause began, washing over them. More and more of the thousands there for the Demo Derby began to stand; at the end of a minute or so, virtually all there were on their feet.
Then Rudy announced Giles would sing. Sgt. Lang gave the order, and he and Gebo and Hust pivoted in unison toward the flag at the north end of the and slowly raised their right hands in salute. They stood, unmoving, until the last note faded away.
— Andy Kirkaldy
New hands help run sugarhouse
“Maple syrup runs in my veins,” said Hayley Slayton, a rising junior at Mount Abraham Union High School, as she spooled maple cotton candy into a ball at the Addison County Sugarmakers sugarhouse.
Having sugared since she was six months old, this 8th-generation Vermonter is a natural at her first year working in the sugarhouse at Field Days.
“This is where it’s at: making sugar on snow, maple snow cones and cotton candy,” she said with a smile.
But Hayley wasn’t making maple cotton candy alone. She was accompanied by her mother, Brenda, who has spent years recovering from a near fatal incident with a wolf hybrid. 
“I promised Haley last year when I was in the hospital that if I made it, we were going to do this,” said Brenda. “We were going to get back in the community and start doing stuff, so that’s what we’re doing.”
— Andrew Stein
Did you hear the one …
Tom Kerr of Ripton snuck up behind a group of folks at Field Days and said, “We’ve got a problem.”
“What’s that?” one woman asked.
“The problem being from now on there’s no more round bales out on Field Days. They have to be square bales of hay,” Tom said.
“Why is that?” gasped the woman.
“They found out the cows weren’t getting their square meals.”
—    Andrew Stein
Boomer knows the drill
Part of the pre-event ritual at the No. 1 Auto Parts Demo Derby is the drivers’ meeting. They gather around the event organizer and listen to the rules — the most important are not to hit another car near the driver’s door and to stop driving when officials ask — and reminders on how things operate.
One driver missed the meeting, Boomer LaFountain. Boomer, who has not missed a derby since his dad founded the event two decades ago, strolled around the corner from the nearby food pavilion as the meeting was nearing its end. He walked under the derby grandstand and bought a Mountain Dew as the gathering was breaking up.
“I guess you figure you’ve been to enough of those meetings,” an observer said.
“I’ve been hearing it for 20 years,” Boomer replied.
— Andy Kirkaldy

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