As a child, my family and I didn’t make it to the State Fair every year from our home in eastern North Carolina. We went enough, however, that I was able to get my hands on a bag or two of MacLeod Farms’ maple syrup cotton candy, something that I’ve never quite forgotten, and with good reason. Like most fair cotton candies, MacLeod’s maple variety is made on the spot, and is thus still warm and airy. What sets it apart is the maple’s earthy flavor and subtle sweetness, and the fact that it’s a boring brownish white. It’s for this latter reason that I’m amazed I ever tried the stuff to begin with. Cotton candy is over the top, its color—most often pale blue or pink—being an important part of its appeal. At least that’s what I thought before trying a sample of MacLeod’s at the fair more than 20 years ago.
MacLeod’s uses pure maple syrup, which it makes each spring on its farm in Barre, Vermont. That process, explains Martin Broggini, whose father-in-law, Leslie MacLeod, started the family’s farm in 1960, takes place between February and the end of April. After that, Broggini says, it’s fair time. The MacLeod’s travel from Vermont to the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in Fletcher each September, followed by October’s Dixie Classic Fair in Winston Salem and the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh.
The three North Carolina fairs are the only such events that the family visits with their products. According to Broggini, it’s a tradition that began at the North Carolina State Fair 47 years ago with Leslie MacLeod, who developed a fondness for the state while traveling through on his way to Georgia to visit a woman that he loved and later married.
Today, Broggini makes his way to the fair with his wife, MacLleod’s daughter, Carolyn Broggini, and his son, John Matthew Broggini. A close family friend, Matt Goulette, also helps at the family’s booth.
MacLeod’s maple syrup cotton candy sells for $3.50 a bag. And for purchasing 10, says Broggini, you get one free. Even for me, a cotton candy fanatic, the 11-bag amount sounds like too much. But Broggini assures me that it’s not, even offering a tip: cotton candy freezes.