News Briefs
October 1, 2015

Country suppers: where community and connecting abound and visitors receive a warm welcome

Country suppers: where community and connecting abound and visitors receive a warm welcome

Volunteers at the annual Shrewsbury Ham Supper sit down to feast after all the guests were served. This year marks the 63rd annual event at the Shrewsbury Town Meeting Hall.

By Karen D. Lorentz

Vermont has a long history of people in small towns coming together at community suppers and ice cream socials. The social aspects were as important as the food in early rural towns where neighbors often lived far from each other and endured long, lonely winters.

Community-shared meals meant fun times in church, grange, and town halls.

As these events have continued, they have often segued into fundraising events that welcome the public to join in. There are fall hunter’s breakfasts, foliage dinners, and all manner of barbecues, strawberry shortcake festivals, and pancake breakfasts featuring Vermont maple syrup.

Towns like Killington often hold such events to raise funds for an injured person or a family experiencing a serious illness, or to raise money for another worthy cause like a small church or a fire department.

The 63rd annual Shrewsbury Ham Supper on Oct. 3 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Shrewsbury Town Meeting Hall will raise funds for the volunteer fire department.

Volunteer firemen and members of the women’s auxiliary show up as early as noon to prepare for the feast and stay until the last dish is put away. They go home exhausted but happy because they have fed hundreds of oldsters and youngsters as well as visitors who have journeyed up into the hills to enjoy good food and connecting with local folk.

“It was excellent,” patrons tell fireman Barry Griffith, the host who traditionally greets them when they enter and thanks them as they leave, with “Glad you liked it. I hope we’ll see you next year.”

The Shrewsbury Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) was started in 1952 and hosted its first supper in 1953. BJ and Joan Stewart were there. Now, sons Paul and Mark and grandsons Tanner and Elliott are serving them and other guests beverages while daughter-in-law Gina works in the kitchen. The passage of time has not dimmed the volunteer spirit.

Women from the SVFD Auxiliary keep the food flowing from the kitchen to the buffet table as guests file by and place heaping amounts on plates and in to-go containers. Some years ago, the organizers noticed the requests for take-out had grown, and now many containers are handed out so that folks can take home dinners to working spouses or those unable to get out.

That says something about how much people love the dinner. The ham comes from the Wallingford Locker and is excellent. The cole slaws, potato salads, baked beans, and desserts come from the kitchens of townsfolk; there are varieties to suit any demanding foodie. Even the pickles are homemade. Condiments and Jones Bakery rolls complement the offerings. It’s little wonder that some 250-plus dinners are served annually.

You don’t have to make a reservation or be a resident to attend the Shrewsbury Ham Supper but do introduce yourself and make some new friends.

Better yet, bring your foliage guests and treat them to the best of rural life—food made and served with love and the good vibrations of a fun time connecting real people in real time in a real place in a tradition 63 years old.

It doesn’t get much better than that! And the price is right, at $10 for anyone over 12, $5 for children over 5, and free for 4 and under.

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