My family built the house near Pleasant Lake when I was ten or eleven or maybe I was twelve. We weren’t year-round residents but part of the growing legion of flatlanders who spent their summers by the lake. Up until then we had rented cottages on Cape Cod. We switched to New Hampshire because my parents were convinced that my teenage sister was about to fall in with the wrong crowd. Plus we could ski in winter time. I’m not sure but I think my sister fell in with the wrong crowd anyway. Or maybe that was me. It doesn’t really matter because we both turned out alright in the end.
Hands down the best day of the summer, probably the whole year, was Hospital Day. It was held on a Tuesday because most of the town’s merchants closed down for part or all of the day. Closing on a Tuesday wouldn’t do too much damage to their bottom line. More or less everyone in town was involved. If you weren’t flipping flapjacks, you were flipping burgers. Or helping sort through the junk for the auction or white elephant table. Or making cookies for the bake sale. The only people to escape some chore or other were the tourists and most of the summer residents. They’re only responsibility was to spend and spend liberally.
New London’s town common was a beehive of activities. The Lions Club kicked off the festivities with a pancake breakfast. There was a White Elephant table overflowing with chipped tea cups and a collection of dust-collecting oddities. The auction helped furnished more than one first apartment and even more cottages and cabins. There were plant tables and home baked pies, cakes and cookies. There were pony rides and games for the kids and the high school principal took a turn in the dunking machine.
The highlight of the afternoon was the grand parade down Main Street. At two o’clock several antique cars, the high school band, a bunch of kids on bicycles and unicycles; a couple of homemade floats and a few fire engines slowly inched their way up Main Street. Somewhere in the middle, the Hospital Day Queen and her court smiled regally and waved to the crowd.
After the parade, most families took a break and headed off to the lake for a swim. But no one stayed away for long. A fair wouldn’t be a fair without a chicken barbeque and New London’s Hospital Day Fair was no exception. The day’s delicious finale was an old fashioned chicken barbeque.
No surprise, Hospital Day has grown and changed over the years. Somewhere along the line, it went from Day to Days and moved to the weekend. Carnies now come to town and set up an extravagant midway of rides and games. But there are still pancakes on Saturday morning and a chicken barbeque in the evening. There are no queens but the parade still rolls up Main Street. Last I knew the dunking machine was still in operation and both the school principal and the hospital president take a turn on the hot, or should I say wet, seat.
Enjoy summer! Visit a country fair, ride the merry-go-round and don’t miss out on the chicken barbeque and homemade pie! Bon appétit!
Red Hot Barbequed Chicken
Can’t make it to a country fair? Try my Red Hot Barbequed Chicken. The sauce has lots of ingredients, but really takes very little work. Just throw everything in a pan and let it roast. Enjoy!
1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless breasts of chicken
Red Hot Barbeque Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Put the chicken and about a cup of barbeque sauce in a large, heavy-duty plastic sealable bag. Seal the bag, pressing out excess air. If the marinade seems too thick add a little beer. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator, turning every few hours, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Longer is better.
2. Preheat the grill to medium high.
3. Remove the chicken breasts from the plastic bag and arrange them on the grill. Grill the chicken over medium-heat for 5-7 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.
Red Hot Barbeque Sauce
This barbeque sauce is good with chicken or pork. Use it as a marinade or basting sauce. Pass any extra.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves
1 small onion – cut into 8 chunks
1 quart grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon each ginger, all spice and cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon or to taste dried pepper flakes – Chipotle, Pasilla, Thai or red pepper
4-6 jalapeno slices or 1/2 fresh or to taste
12 ounces beer at room temperature
1. Throw everything except the beer into a large skillet, toss to combine. Roast in the oven at 350° for 45 minutes.
2. Add the beer. Roast for an additional 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Put in the blender and process until smooth.
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