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Field Days’ Taste of Vermont raises money for football program

NEW HAVEN — Enthusiasts of the Addison County Fair and Field Days often talk about the food first: barbecue sandwiches, piping hot Italian sausages, crepes, creemees, slurpees and, of course, platefuls of fried dough.
But those who saved room on Tuesday had yet another appealing dining option: the annual Taste of Vermont dinner with all-local foods donated by local businesses, which in recent years has been the primary fundraising event for the Vergennes/Mount Abraham high school football team.
“It’s something that Field Days has done for years,” said organizer and Addison resident Suzie Hodsden, the parent of a Vergennes Union High School player. Four years ago, the event was offered to the VUHS football team as a fundraiser.
As many know, VUHS does not have a football team and plays with Mount Abraham Union High School squad. Parents and players must raise money to pay all of the expenses.
“My boys’ father grew up playing football and so did some of these other kids’ parents,” Hodsden said. “The boys wanted to play, but there was nothing there for them. So they arranged a cooperative agreement with Mount Abe. Now we bus them over to play.”
As the school district does not provide the funds, parents and students get together to raise money through car washes and spaghetti dinners. Hodsden says it’s hard work — but entirely worth it.
“Vergennes and Mount Abe have the biggest rivalry,” added Hodsden. “But on the football field, there’s no competition. It’s all one team.”
In the past several years, the success of Taste of Vermont dinner has proven to be a staple of the Vergennes football players’ yearly budget, and the community-building effect of football goes hand-in-hand with the collaborative spirit of the fundraising dinner.
“It’s always fun, it’s something that we’re proud to be part of,” Hodsden said. “We do make money from it, and it gets the kids out here. They get to see all of the people who are donating to help them play football.” 
She gave much of the credit for organizing the dinner to Addison resident Lisa Rowell, who is also the parent of a player.
“Lisa Rowell has been our main Fundraising Champion since Day One and it is she who has made all of our fundraisers happen,” Hodsden said in a follow-up email. “She alone contacted all the vendors and shopped for supplies and made numerous phone calls and spent countless hours arranging this event.”
Among the dozen football players who volunteered on Tuesday as servers — and the muscle needed to lift the heavy containers of prepared foods — was sophomore Bradley Sturtevant.
“I told my grandpa when I was a little boy that I was going to do play football,” Sturtevant said. “So I always wanted to do it. I just wanted to help the football program out and get some money for it and that’s why I’m here today.”
The menu itself has become a tradition, Hodsden noted, with favorite recipes pulling in diners almost as excited about the delicious meal as they are about Commodore and Eagle football.
“It’s the same vendors each year that donate food,” she added.
Those loyal vendors include the Waybury Inn, Greg’s Meat Market (which cooks the hams donated by McKenzie), and Misty Knoll Farm (which donates chicken and biscuits). The chef from the Old Lantern Inn cooks up venison pies, and Snake Mountain Sweets donates no-bake chocolate and peanut butter cookies — a particular favorite, Hodsden noted.
This year, Graze of Vergennes donated the mashed potatoes and the Red Apron Cupcakery also donated cupcakes and cookies. Vermont Coffee Company brews kept diners awake for the next course.
The dinner was served at four different seatings at 4:45, 5:30, 6:15 and 7 p.m. for $10 per person. Though the Taste of Vermont dinner is only one night a year — the first day of Field Days — every summer it provides a dining and community event not to be missed.

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