Field Days to honor its former president with new Foster welcome center

NEW HAVEN — Addison County Fair and Field Days will honor and remember the president of its board of directors who was killed in a farm accident last fall by building a new welcome center on the New Haven fairgrounds that James H. Foster Jr. had imagined.
“This was Jim’s vision,” said Benj Deppman, vice president of the Field Days board of directors.
The board had long been working on creating a new ticket booth to replace the crammed and aging booths that have been used for years.
The $125,000 welcome center will be a 36-feet-by-60 feet structure with a barn-like appearance situated where the main entrance gate was last year, just outside the Show Tent. Fairgoers will pass through a center open space, out of the sun, with ticket booths on either side.
“We want something that makes a great first statement when people come to Field Days,” Deppman said. “This will be a shady space were families can meet.”
It will provide bathrooms right at the entrance so fairgoers won’t have to be greeted by movable port-o-lets right at the gate.
Board member Bill Rolo, who has been involved with construction of pretty much every building project on the fairgrounds for the past two decades, is acting as master builder for this project.
It is expected to be dedicated as the James H. Foster Jr. Welcome Center.
Foster was president of the Field Days board of directors for a number year. He was killed at age 47 in a tragic accident while working on a farm in Brandon on Sept. 21, 2017.
A lifelong Addison County resident, Foster was a member of the Middlebury family that operates the Foster Brothers Farm Inc. He was one of the principals behind Vermont Natural Ag Products, which is best known for selling composted cow manure called “Moo Doo.” In that business he managed relationships with many farmers and franchisers, and became well-known around the region.
He was on the boards of the Vermont FFA Foundation and the Central Cemetery Association.
As Field Days board member and president he was very active in safeguarding the annual summer agricultural exhibition’s family-friendly atmosphere, according to a resolution in his memory that the Vermont House of Representatives passed last month.
“He was really critical to our operations” at Field Days, Deppman said, adding that when Foster used the term “Field Days Family” he truly meant that everyone involved in the fair was part of a family.
Ground breaking for the welcome center is due to happen within a month, Deppman said. The building will be ready for this year’s Field Days, which is slated to run Aug. 7-11.
The new building will include a plaque with a dedication to Foster, plus directors plan to include names of donors on the plaque, as well. Although the board has already done a fair amount of fundraising, board members recognize that there are people who will want to be named on the list of contributors to the Foster Welcome Center.
Contributions made payable to “Field Days” can be mailed to P.O. Box 745, Middlebury, VT 05753.
The welcome center isn’t the only building going on at the fairgrounds this summer. The Field Days organization is also replacing the “solar building” — the hoop structure in front of the Paquette Building — with a more permanent structure. It will be pole barn construction, and called the Picnic Pavilion. Although it will look more barnlike than the old structure, Deppman said there will be some openings on the sides like the old solar building in order to let the air circulate.
Although the idea for the welcome center has been percolating for quite awhile, “this all came together quickly,” Deppman said.
“The board is committed to doing it this year.”

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