New England Country Fair: An Annual Tradition

Courant Community

No one seems to know how long the Second Congregational Church, in Manchester, has held its New England Country Fair, but Lisa Trombly, whose been heading up the popular Country Café portion of the annual event for years, said she has seen an old advertising brochure from 1966, so that makes it at least a 51 year tradition.

On Oct. 21, the Second Congregational Church, at 385 North Main Street, added another successful fair to its history.

"I go to a lot of church fairs, and although I've been a part of this church my whole life, I don't believe I'm biased when I say this is the best fair around," said Trombly. "Churches all around are shrinking in size, but we have a lot of people who pitch in year after year to help, even some from outside the church. I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else."

For Carol Clark, who co-chaired the fair this year with her son, Matt, the church's success is due in large part to offering a variety of vendors with different kinds of items to purchase. That, and keeping the prices reasonable.

"We try not to have all jewelry or all knitted items. We have a beautiful country store and we even make a drive up to Vermont to bring back Cabot cheeses. This is our second biggest fundraiser for the church, behind our annual antique show in March," she said, adding that the church also holds regular dinners. "It's a real team effort, where everyone does their part."

Held on the two levels of the church, the upstairs featured the old fashioned country store Clark spoke of, a bake table, handmade crafts, and more, including the Country Café - whose reputation for delicious chowders brings back repeat customers each and every year.

New this year were Footprint Truffles, by Kim Defilippis of Bolton, which was doing a brisk business, selling handmade liqueur and cocktail-infused chocolates for adult tastes. The ganache-filled chocolates included delicious flavors, such as crème de menthe, hazelnut, key lime pie, and raspberry.

"Each chocolate has a tiny amount of alcohol, so I don't sell them to anyone under 21," said Defilippis. "I was making them for friends, but they convinced me I should try selling them at fairs."

The lower level of the church featured outside vendors offering soy candles, handmade soaps, ceramics, quilting, artwork, doll clothing, as well as a Grandma's Attic shop.

Joe Baker, of Baker's Woodshop, sold handmade wine racks and caddies, spice racks, salt and pepper shakers, and wooden games - all made from recycled pallets he gets from work at his daytime job.

"I used to make things from pallets for years, but had stopped for a while, then got back into it a couple of years ago. I break all the pallets down, take them apart, sand them, and glue them. Where I can't use pallet wood, I use pine," said Baker.

"Everybody has a story and a reason they feel a connection to this church," said Trombly. "We have a big food pantry here that serves over 100 families in the community, which is all the more important because of cutbacks from the state. We have a bell choir, and we have a nice antiques show in March. And we're very fortunate to have a wonderful minister, Jack Cook, and his wife, Nancy, who participate in everything we do here. We put on some good shows for the size of our church."

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