Chowder and baked goods draw a crowd at the Road Church Fair

Chowder and baked goods draw a crowd at the Road Church Fair

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STONINGTON — Steaming bowls of clam chowder awaited parishioners and visitors Saturday at the Road Church Fair.

“This is the 47th fair and we’re still working off Henry Barnes’ recipe for chowder,” said Sally Salancy, of Mystic, who chaired the annual event. “It is a tradition here.”

Henry Barnes was a member of the parish from the ’60s to the ’80s, said Nick Stahl, of Westerly, who oversaw the production of about 20 gallons of the chowder, which was made with 5 gallons of clams.

“It’s a traditional chowder — simple, nothing in it except clams, potatoes, onions, salt pork and black pepper, with the addition of milk or half and half if desired,” said Stahl. “He made a clear Rhode Island chowder but he does allow cream in it if you want a New England chowder, so he does allow both.”

The fair also included grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and a huge array of baked goods, including items such as a homemade pear and rhubarb pie made with homegrown, organic produce and an Italian chocolate almond cake.

Agnes Hall, of Hopkinton, who was working the baked goods table, said chowder and baked items were big attractions at the fair every year.

“A lot of our parishioners are excellent bakers and some people come in and ask for specific things that we’ve made every year, and obviously we’re known for our chowder,” she said. “And we always have a craft table; many of the things are made by our parishioners — those that don’t cook, sew.”

The money raised from selling food, crafts, and tag sale items goes to the Family Fellowship Fund of the church — the First Congregational Church of Stonington, on Pequot Trail. The fund, which supplements the church budget for unexpected expenses, was originally set up when the congregation needed a new furnace.

With music from Carolyn Engle, of Clinton, on the cello, and Amy Jones, of Unionville, on violin, the fair also included vendors selling antique furnitures, tchotchkes, and crafts.

Painting snowflakes on a frosted wine glass was Carla Zerio, of Waterford, who was chatting with friends behind her table display of bowls, glasses and bottles, each embellished with her designs. Painting glass started as an experimental hobby for her and became a passion.

“I was in a bad car accident, I wasn’t working and I started picking up some glasses; I’ve always been artistic and I fell in love with glass,” she said, painting a precise line with a tiny brush. “I pick up glass anywhere, I go to tag sales, I go to Goodwill, and I try to sell as much as I can but they really are my babies.”

The enamel paint takes four days to cure, and then Zerio bakes the painted glassware for a half hour on 325 degrees to seal the paint. The pieces can be washed in the dishwasher on the top rack.

Her business is Dash of Glass and she takes specialty orders for weddings and gifts.

Sitting near a row of walking sticks propped up along the tailgate of a pickup truck was Kaitlyn Vacchina, of Lebanon, and her dog, Winnie, a Wheaton mix.

The sticks, some made from hickory, others from hornbeam, also known as ironwood, were created by Vacchina’s grandfather, Thurlow Coates, of North Stonington, who was directing fair traffic in the parking lot. “He just started picking up sticks in the woods when he was walking his dog,” she said.

Every walking stick has its own coloration, shape and character, she said. “We all have one, every one in the family, and they’re all different; that’s the neat part is that no two are the same,” she said. “We use them to hike and snowshoe and he uses it just to walk around.”

Over at the parking lot, Coates said he lets the wood dry for a year in his garage and then he works on each stick in his basement.

“I take the bark off and in some places I use a file; then I sand them and then I put on tung oil and drill a hole on the top and put a rubber tip on the bottom,” he said. “I have about 60 finished ones and about 70 sticks in the garage.”

Creating the walking sticks been a great pastime for the colder New England seasons, he said.

“It’s fun, in the wintertime when it’s cold, I go down into my cellar and make something that when you get all done you feel good,” he said.


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