The place name Milford conjures up images of forests, lakes and streams, canoes and paddles, guides and ‘sports’ -- and good chow.
More than 100 years after Andrew Bigelow Paine wrote ‘The Tent Dwellers’ about his famous fishing expedition from Milford House with Eddie Breck, the area is still a paradise and the chow is still good.
Take the baked beans for instance. Folks who poured into the community hall April 13 had no complaints. Maybe the beans weren’t heated up over a campfire by guides Charles ‘the Strong’ or Del ‘the Stout,’ but they were good. So was the ham. The pancakes? The batter’s mixed by hand just right. Pour on some Warren Family maple syrup and those flapjacks melt in your mouth.
Milford Maplefest means the last snow has probably fallen and melted. Woods roads are drying up, and people are getting out on the lakes and streams.
Wayne Boucher figures the Maplefest has been going since the mid- to late 1970s.
“Pretty much as long as I’ve been here,” he says, standing just inside the front door out of the rain. He heads up the hall’s board.
Some year’s there’s lineups outside. They have to have two sittings. People come from all over.
“It just happens every year. People are very aware of it. We don’t have to do much advertising,” he says. The parking lot is packed for the noon sitting. “People come at 11:30. Of course everybody’s not quite ready. And they make a decision in the kitchen ‘let’s feed them.’”
Behind Boucher cutlery clatters on plates, every seat filled. People talking. Eating.
“We have pancakes, delicious pancakes, potato salad, ham. I haven’t eaten yet, you know,” he says. “The pies are incredible. Maple syrup pies, coconut cream, lemon meringue pie, chocolate pie. All kinds of pie.”
The maple pie might me the event’s signature food.
“Pretty well, it’s called Backwoods Maple Syrup Pie,” says Boucher. “Terry (Roscoe) makes it. It’s sweet. It can be a killer. You only want a small bit of it.”
In the end, it’s all about community, says Boucher.
“The board of directors here organizes a group of people and one person calls volunteers from the community, all over, and they contribute food and they contribute time,” he says. “They’re good spirits. They do dishes and everything. It’s our main fundraiser every year.”
And people do come from all over.
“Parkers Cove, Digby, up the Valley. Bridgetown,” he says. “All the money goes back into the hall except for some expenses for food.”
While the crowd of both volunteers and diners are decidedly of the older set, youngsters are there helping out.
“Young people. It’s amazing. They volunteer. They might be children of parents who are volunteering. Community members, and some I’ve never seen before,” he says. “It’s about the community. People come together.”
Roscoe is selling bottles of maple syrup just inside the door. Modern day Milford House manager Val Richard is there. So is Charles ‘the Strong’ Charlton’s granddaughter.
“Thank you,” says a woman as she walks back out to the parking lot.
“Thank you,” he says to the woman. “I’m glad you had a good time.”
“A lovely time,” she says. “Now if you could just fix this rain…”
“Do you want more of it or less?” he replies.