Maple treats delight at fair

NEW HAVEN –– Each year the inviting scent of warm, sweet maple syrup pulls fairgoers into the Addison County Maple Sugarmakers Association building at Field Days. The sugarhouse is a must-see for most people at the fair, many of whom have a favorite maple treat.
“Everybody has their thing that they like,” said sugarhouse volunteer Maggie Seeley on Tuesday, the first day of Addison County Fair and Field Days. “I come in for the cup of coffee and the doughnut, that’s my thing.”
There is rarely a dull moment in the sugarhouse. Lines quickly form at the milkshake, creemee and cotton candy stations, where volunteers happily serve their customers.
Barb Rainville, the association’s secretary-treasurer,  has managed the sugarhouse for more than 10 years. The Lincoln resident explained that besides the delicious maple sweets, the building’s open and friendly feel keeps people coming back.
“People come and sit down because they love the way it smells or they love people-watching,” she said. “We try to have it be a comfortable atmosphere for people to come.”
Kathy Gagnon has volunteered at the sugarhouse for the past five years. She and her sons can walk over to the fair from their New Haven home, where they have 350 taps in their sugarbush. She said that part of the sugarhouse’s draw is connected to the fair’s tradition and true Vermont feeling.
“It feels like home to people and they talk about it on the Addison County Fair and Field Days website,” she said. “They asked, ‘What’s your favorite part of the fair?’ and every other person said maple milkshakes.”
Beachie Williams, a Cornwall sugarmaker, said that the fair’s sugarhouse always buy barrels of local syrup for their products, which are made in a kitchen in the back of the sugarhouse.
Seeley, a Weybridge resident, has volunteered at the sugarhouse from its start in 1975. She works in the kitchen, where she makes maple cream, Indian sugar, maple walnuts and maple candy. She looks forward to volunteering every year.
“I think it’s the people that work here,” she said. “It ranges from quite elderly to young children. Just like sugaring, you get it in your blood.”
In the kitchen she boils syrup to different temperatures to make different maple treats. For cream, she boils the syrup, cools it in a bath and then pours it into the mixer. The maple syrup transforms from a translucent amber to a creamy beige. The volunteers use the cream on doughnuts, a popular treat.
Jacob Giles, 17, explained that different treats sell at different times throughout the day.
“In the morning it’s definitely the doughnuts, they like getting the doughnuts and the coffee for two bucks, where at other places it’s two bucks for a coffee,” he said. “Later in the day they just go straight to the milkshake stand and those are just flowing during the night. We can’t stop.”
Giles came to the sugarhouse as a kid with Gagnon, his mother. When he learned he was old enough to volunteer, he started right away.
“We have a sugarhouse down the road and I’ve been coming here since I was little,” he said. “It’s just a nice environment to work, you get to meet people and see a lot of your friends. It’s a lot of fun.”
Rainville said that both the volunteers and the fairgoers clearly like being in the maple building. She added that even though it’s a fun atmosphere and the prices are affordable, it’s really the maple syrup that people love the most. People at every age enjoy their favorite treat once a year at the fair and always display their contentment.
“You should just see their eyes when they get a maple pop or a creemee,” she said.
A little boy enjoying a bag of maple cotton candy with his younger sister proved Rainville’s point.
Grinning, he said, “I like it because it’s maple!”
See video from the Field Days maple sugarhouse at addisonindependent.co

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