It’s Fair Time in Vermont

By: Tabitha Armstrong | 08.17.18

squash winners from the Orleans County Fair - food producers in vermontOkay,

So this is a little outside our normal reviews – but, there is something about The Fair that captures the imagination, and the taste buds.

So, I wanted to share a little about fair food.


Now, there are two types of fair food – the one is the heart of the agricultural tradition, the vegetables and food products brought in for the competitions. Winning blue ribbons for your vegetables or for your jellies, pickles, and relishes is an honor many gardeners and home chefs strive for…

And they make for beautiful displays during the fair days.

The second kind is all of the tasty treats that are only available (or best enjoyed) during those few days once a year.

Now, I have been to the Orleans County Fair once so far – and plan on going back for a few of the big events.

Jellie winners from the Orleans County Fair - food producers in vermont

And I have to share something a little silly – I have a very specific way I prefer to enjoy the fair, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one.

This tradition has developed over the years and my many trips to various fairs throughout the state.

It starts with visiting the animal barns – horses first and then dairy cows. And I can’t forget to grab that glass of milk from the milk parlor when it’s available.

From here, I head to the agricultural displays. At the Orleans County Fair this is the 4-H building first (because it is near the animals) and then up to Floral Hall via the vendor lined avenue so I can look at all of the treats I will later sample.

Now, part of the fair experience is the smell – that blend of fried foods, spun sugar, and cooking sausage wafting through the air.

cucumber winners from the Orleans County Fair - food producers in vermontI make my way to Floral Hall where the produce entries are on display. There I browse and compare the vegetables to the things in my own garden and those I want to put up later in the season. I admire the different and unique combinations of jellies, and look for new things to try myself. I also wonder about what made that one zucchini better than the other, or that pile of beans win the blue ribbon…

After critiquing the items on display, wishing I had the skills of that unknown gardener or chef (and sometimes with a little guilty pride that my garden is producing comparable items), it is on to the Maple House.

Maple creamy ice cream from the Orleans County Fair Vermont food producersThat is where I start my fair food experience every year, and the number 1 item on my list is a maple creamy followed by a bag of maple cotton candy.

Food At The Fair – NEK Style

Cotton Candy is a fair staple – the wispy strands of spun sugar ethereal and gone almost as soon as you’ve begun to enjoy it – almost like the fair itself.

The ice cream is perfect while walking the fair and though I don’t always open the cotton candy right away both provide snacks that wont sit too heavy in the belly while I join my son for rides.

Not eating fried food before enjoying rides is something I learned through experience, and many trips on spinning attractions.

In the afternoon or early evening I browse the stalls and the food carts, looking at the different menus, the new additions, and the classic favorites. All the while I’m looking forward to dinner, knowing that I will be getting fresh cut french fries slathered in vinegar and ketchup, with a hot dog while those I’m with inevitable grab a sausage with peppers and onions and a blooming onion (perfect for me to enjoy a few bites of each – enjoying all of the flavors that scream fair time).

Maple cotton candy from the Orleans County Fair - food producers in vermontThough french fries are a common place food, there is something about getting them from a fair concession. Maybe all the different foods going through the fryer add to the taste, but I secretly think a little bit of that fair magic, that scent floating on the air, somehow helps flavor even the more common place items.

As I browse stand after stand, and visit booths and show tents, I acquire a plate of fried bread dough sprinkled with plenty of cinnamon and powdered sugar, then drizzled with maple syrup. As I sit and watch performances while pick pieces off the dough I remember other fairs, other shows, and sharing bread dough with friends and family members through the years – many now scattered or no longer with us.

There is something altogether different about the fair grounds at night – lights and music from rides, shouts from different booths, and the noise of the crowd make it a a different experience from that in the daytime. That’s when I buy my caramel apple (if I haven’t already) but it is saved to be eaten last.

After a long day at the fair, there are the nighttime performances to watch – sitting in the grandstands I enjoy popcorn from the boy scouts (if they have it) and look forward to that caramel apple.

The smells, the sites, the sounds, the atmosphere, and, of course, the food all lay the groundwork for those special memories we relive each and every year when the fair comes around again – but a part of those memories are the traditions we ourselves create…

pickle winners from the Orleans County Fair - food producers in vermontLike a certain order of visiting the attractions, or

A certain order of eating food items

But no matter your tradition, it is both unique and a part of that shared experience that is Fair Time.

So, are you going to the fair?

If so, don’t miss:

Orleans County Fair

Friday Night, August 17

6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The Vermont Burlesque Show

9p.m. Raised on Radio in the Beer Tent

Saturday Night, August 18

7 p.m. Mark Sheltra

8 p.m. Bob Marley’s Comedy Show

Sunday Night, August 19

The Demolition Derbies

The Caledonia Fair

Saturday, August 25

Cannan Smith Live Concert 8 p.m.

Sunday, August 26

Demolition Derbies