Field Days barbecue couple brings a backstory

JOHN AND JUDY BAKER prepare a plate of ribs, potatoes and coleslaw for a hungry customer at their English Barbeque stand at Field Days.

On a hot summer day at Addison County Fair and Field Days, John Baker got down on one knee on the back stoop of his barbeque stand and proposed to his partner, Judy. Fast-forward 15 years, and the (now-married) couple is still serving up barbeque out of the same stand at Field Days and other fairs around Vermont and New Hampshire.
The relationship had a little bit of a rocky start. Judy quit her job managing thrift shops in her native England to move to the United States, with encouragement from John’s older brother. John was tasked with picking her up at Newark (N.J.) International Airport, but he got confused about the details of her arrival, and Judy ended up stranded at the airport for 24 hours. She recalls that she began to question her choice.
“I got the date wrong,” John recounted. “I was up in Vermont, with no cell service. On my way down, I got cell service and suddenly I was getting all sorts of messages asking me ‘Where the bloody hell are you? You’re late.’”
Luckily for fairgoers, Judy forgave John. Today, the pair’s “English Barbeque” stand is famous amongst customers for its pulled pork, ribs and, as of this year, BBQ sundaes. No, that’s not ice cream drizzled with barbeque sauce, as the name might imply, but bowls filled with beans, pulled pork and potatoes.
Despite the name, there is nothing English about the dishes this barbeque joint is dishing up. “People don’t always remember you and your stand,” Judy explained, “so when we heard someone at a fair say, ‘There’s the English barbeque,’ we decided to use it as our name.”
John feels they are “not just a business, but a part of the community.” He and Judy agreed that the customers are what they love most about the work.
“I’ve made lots of friends (doing this). I see them once a year, but when I do, it’s like we’ve never been apart,” Judy said.
“County fairs bring in the type of people that understand what we do, who appreciate what’s going into it,” John added.
— Nora Peachin

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