Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Demo derbies and maple doughnuts: Scenes from the Champlain Valley Fair

Mary-Ann Ebersole, a longtime Champlain Valley Fair volunteer, pictured here in the fair's Maple Sugar House on Aug. 29, 2023.
Mikaela Lefrak
Vermont Public
Mary-Ann Ebersole, a longtime Champlain Valley Fair volunteer, pictured here in the fair's Maple Sugar House on Aug. 29, 2023.

Tilt-a-whirls, agricultural competitions, carnival games — and so much fried food.

The Champlain Valley Fair is back in Essex Junction through Sunday, Aug. 3, and Vermont Edition visited for a live broadcast.

Among the new or notable attractions this year:

  • The roller coaster is back after a three-year absence, said Jeffrey Bartley, the fair's marketing director: "It's a big lift," he said. "It takes 18 people to build that ride, and then also break it down. And I think it takes seven tractor trailers, I believe, to transport it. So we're very thankful that they brought it up the coast."
  • Strates Shows, the Orlando, Florida-based company that brought the roller coaster and all of the other midway rides and games, is celebrating 100 years.
  • New foods this year include gator on a stick, the walking waffle with toppings, and a special beer called Midway Lager from 14th Star Brewing.
  • A live shark exhibit with nurse sharks: "They're very docile. And they do perfect in an environment like this," Bartley said.
  • Remaining concerts on the schedule include Ludacris on Friday and Riley Green on Sunday.

Here are some of the people Vermont Edition met at the fairgrounds:

A woman in a long-sleeve black top and jeans stands in front of the demolition derby track and stage
Eric Ford
Vermont Public
Samantha Slingerland has been competing in the demolition derby at the Champlain Valley Fair for five years, including competing against her husband last year. Pictured Aug. 31, 2023.

Demo derby driver

Samantha Slingerland has been competing in the fair's demolition derby for five years — and she's won it each of the last three.

"I went through, I call it a quarter life crisis — I got a divorce. And I was just looking for an outlet," Slingerland said of how she got started. Her now-husband encouraged her to try the demolition derby: "It started as just, like, an aggression outlet. And then I was like, actually, I think I like this. So here we are."

Slingerland said she tends to thrive in situations where women are not stereotypically involved.

"I like to see like a line of little girls. They're always like watching me like, 'That's the girl driver,'" Slingerland said. "And I have a stepdaughter of my own. And I kind of just encourage her, like, girls can do this, too. Like, there's no reason a girl can't try that."

Last year Slingerland and her husband competed against each other for the first time — and she won.

"I got into a position where I was like, sort of stuck by a dead car. But my car was still fully movable. So he used his car to like, move the dead car to get me out," Slingerland said. "So that was sweet, but it did cost him a victory. So he was like, 'Well, I kind of let you win.'"

Slingerland said she has come to the fair her whole life. Other than the demolition derby, she said she loves the bunny tent, the cows and the Zipper ride.


Mary-Ann Ebersole of Colchester takes a break from her job at Global Foundries to volunteer at the fair. This year she was working at the Maple Sugar House.

"Every year they do come back, every year they love the doughnuts, they love the ice cream, they love the shakes and the cotton candy, sugar on snow and the maple candy. So I get to see the repetitive people, and it's a blessing. And it brings family here — and family is what it's all about."

A man in a red T-shirt and a baseball cap stands in front of a display labeled "Hero wall" with images of military personnel
Mikaela Lefrak
Vermont Public
Sean Tatro, owner of Jay's Famous Cheese Steaks, stands in front of the eatery's "Hero Wall" honoring veterans at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction on Aug. 29, 2023.

Cheese steak slinger

Sean Tatro of Milton recently bought Jay's Famous Cheese Steaks as a family "adventure" alongside his 20-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter and other family. Outside the fair, Tatro owns a heating company.

His concession stand includes a "Hero Wall," and he is donating a portion of his profits to organizations that support veterans, inspired by his father who served in Vietnam.

The secret to a great cheese steak, Tatro said, is cooking it fresh: "You can't just cook the meat and stick it in a container and let it sit overnight. We don't pre-cook anything."

Koa Phoenix at the Champlain Valley Fair #vermont #champlainvalleyfair


Folk singer-songwriter Koa Phoenix, who calls the Northeast Kingdom home, was performing for fairgoers Thursday and shared a portion of a song about Vermont on Vermont Edition.

"When I started playing, when I was in middle school, it was kind of like the secret thing I did on the side just played in my room by myself," Phoenix said. "My family knew I played, but a lot of my friends didn't. And I continued that kind of process through high school just trying to teach myself chords and melodies. ... I would say probably since mid-college to now is when I've really been able to play for people and have that connection. That's really what I that's what I live for, is a connection."

Broadcast at noon Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or check us out on Instagram.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Tedra worked on Vermont Edition as a producer and editor from 2022 to 2024.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.
As Director of Content Partnership, Eric works with individuals and organizations to make connections leading to more Vermont stories. As Producer of the Made Here series, Eric partners with filmmakers from New England and Quebec to broadcast and stream local films. Find more info here: