In our Co-op’s capacious photo archive, there is a great image of Hanover Front End Manager Linda Temple at a milking contest on the Dartmouth College Green in the 1980s. (I’ve been told we were never invited back.) Back then, we called this event Dairy Day. Our Co-op’s Dairy Day celebration was so popular, eventually we needed more room. So when we opened our Lebanon store in 1997, we moved Dairy Day from the Hanover green to the Lebanon store parking lot.
Back in those days, we had two celebrations: Dairy Day in June and Harvest Festival in the fall. Only one problem with Harvest Festival: It was held during the harvest! (Hence the cryptic name.) Our local farmers and food producers, who help make these events possible, understandably found it pretty hard to get away that time of year, so they asked us to move Harvest Festival to late summer.
Two similar celebrations held so close together didn’t make a lot of sense, so after trying it a year or two, we bagged the idea and combined the two events into one massive local-food party: the Producers Fair. The big shindig is back in town this Saturday, Aug. 12, featuring great entertainment, wagon rides, live music, animals, activities for the kiddos, and samples galore. All free. (Baby goats, people! Bay. Bee. Goats!)
Producers Fair (Rain or Shine!)
Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Lebanon Co-op Food Store only
Free and open to all
Cocoa The Cow
For many years, our summer celebrations featured a special guest: Cocoa the Cow. Cocoa would give kids high fives and chuckle warmly and things like that.
Cocoa the Cow was a poor sucker stuck inside a dark, oppressively hot, coffin-like costume. The outfit had one of those battery-operated fan thingies installed inside the head piece, which was theoretically designed to help with the heat. But in reality, all it did was blow stale, foul-smelling, very hot air into one’s face. The wearer of said costume pretty much felt like he was being roasted alive. I would know. I was Cocoa.
Former Co-op General Manger Terry Appleby and I shared this responsibility, displaying all the cheer one would expect from people volunteering to be incinerated. It was a good system: One chump would wear the costume for as long as he could stand it (not long), then turn the sweat-soaked outfit over to the other chump. A nice, ripe stench would be left in the first guy’s wake. For obvious reasons, no one wanted to be the second person to wear the costume. Sometimes Terry and I would thumb wrestle to see who would go first. Usually Terry would just pull rank and remind me who was boss.
I don’t know what happened to that costume. Some people think I may have burned it so I’d never have to wear it again. I’m not telling.
Our Co-op is owned by thousands of members in the Upper Valley and beyond. I once met a family from Connecticut who made the drive to the Lebanon store once a year, every year, to go to the Producers Fair and to stock up on their favorite Upper Valley produce. Bringing far-flung people together is one of the many things that makes the Producers Fair a great Upper Valley tradition.
There are baby goats at the Producers Fair this year. (Did I mention that part? I would hate to forget that.) We don’t always have them, so it’s a big deal when we do. Is there anything cuter than baby goats?
An Exercise in Cooperation
We couldn’t hold this event without the generous donations of our local food producers and the incredible teamwork of our Co-op staff. The work that goes into the Producers Fair is enormous. Planning starts months ahead of time. Our local farmers are busy this time of year, too, and they don’t have to do things like this. They volunteer their time and products to give back to the community and to teach future generations about the importance of preserving a vibrant local food system. So when you’re at the Producers Fair, and you see a hard-working farmer or Co-op employee, tell ’em thanks!
See You at the Producers Fair
Of course, none of this would be possible without you! Come to the Lebanon store this Saturday and help us celebrate our local and regional food system and the people who make it possible. Enjoy delicious free food samples from over 35 local producers. Have fun with hayrides, kids activities, local entertainment and live music. Get all the details here.
Did I mention the baby goats?