Mill Gap Ruritans Maple Doughnuts Are A Go

A Highland County Maple Festival without long lines of visitors at the Mill Gap Ruritan trailer waiting for maple doughnuts? Unthinkable. Yet, it almost became a reality this year. To learn more, we spoke with…

“Jeff Baxter, I’m the current president of the Mill Gap Ruritans and, of course, we have a board of eight persons and then a club of about 30.”

“So the Mill Gap Ruritans has a trailer. It’s about 53 feet long, 14 feet wide, that sits at the fairground about 10 ½ months of the year. There, we use it for Fair Association operations. But for the six weeks before and after the Maple Fest, it moves to the city lot here right in town. And, of course, that trailer takes about 15 people to run it. It runs from about 2:00 am to maybe 5:00 pm each of the four days of the Maple Fest. And, with the crew, which is of course Mill Gap Ruritans and lots of other volunteers from as far away as Covington and Bath County, we produce about 1,200 dozen doughnuts per day of the four days of the Maple Fest and, it’s really a crowd favorite.”

He talked about the problem, and the eventual resolution.

“So last year, about a week before the Highland County Fair, the regional Fire Marshall out of Roanoke came, and primarily came dealing with the fireworks that were going to happen. But I think as a cursory note to come through and check the fairgrounds for fire extinguishers and signage. And part of the thing he did also was went into a lot of the food service trailers and buildings over there, and come to find out a lot of things were not up to par.”

“Everybody has fire extinguishers, everybody has exhaust hoods, but they weren’t what you would call high-end restaurant food grade hoods with exhaust fans, grease louvers, fire suppression and all that. And that put things in peril at the fair. But then, of course, that carried on to the few of the clubs that move their operation for the Maple Fest, us being one of them.”

“So very soon after the fair, by the second week of September, we started working to source who we could contract with to get this type of high-end system installed in our trailer. And that was moving in the right direction, but sometime in December, we started to see some problems with the ability to supply what we needed to get it done on time, and we kind of have been in a crisis mode particularly in January. And by early February, there was just the thought that this isn’t going to get done – we physically won’t have the apparatus in the trailer that would then allow us to pass inspection, get our license and be able to run the trailer.”

“But all that has changed in recent weeks. Of course, it was off – now it’s on again. And by Friday the 23rd our actual exhaust hood and system will be here in Highland County. And all of next week, from the 26th to the 29th of February, it’ll all be installed. Of course, the trailer will be moved from the fairgrounds to the city lot here right off the main intersection. And next weekend, the 2nd and the 3rd of March, we’ll be working very diligently to get the trailer ready, take receipt of all of our ingredients, which is substantial, and by Friday night the 8th, be able to start into Maple Fest doughnuts and those 1,200 dozen doughnuts that we’ll do each day.”

The Ruritan Club can always use more volunteers.

“So as I said, to run the trailer takes a lot of people. We have four separate days of schedules, four shifts 4:00 am to 7:00, 7:00 to 10:00, 10:00 to 1:00, 1:00 to 4:00, and there are definitely some holes in the schedule. If anybody wants to get a hold of me or our secretary Burgundy Hicks Brock, she could help get people signed up for that. Even Chris Swecker at the Chamber of Commerce, he knows about some of our needs.”

“But we’re definitely heading in the right direction finally.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Current Weather