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Couple continues tradition of serving homemade kettle corn at summer events

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Ever since they became the new owners of County Kettle Corn, formerly known as West Mountain Kettle Corn, Dustin and Stephanie Graham have worked to maintain the tradition of creating tasty kettle corn while putting their own stamp on the popular treat.

The Grahams, who live in Caribou, purchased the kettle corn business from Frank and Pam Hallett, former principals for SAD 1 schools, in fall 2018. This year marks the first official summer that the Grahams have taken County Kettle Corn on the road to festivals and events, including Rockin’ on Riverside concerts in Presque Isle, Thursdays on Sweden Street in Caribou, Mapleton Daze and the Presque Isle Community Yard Sale.

“We got married last summer and we were looking for a hobby that we could do together,” Dustin Graham said, as he and Stephanie set up County Kettle Corn for the July 11 Rockin’ on Riverside event. 

Unlike microwave popcorn, kettle corn includes ingredients of corn seed, sugar, oil and salt hand-popped in a kettle for eight to 10 minutes. Stephanie Graham noted that the Halletts gave her and Dustin plenty of tips and advice on how to create the most perfect bags of kettle corn.

“If the weather is cool and rainy that will impact the corn popping, so we don’t set up if we don’t feel that the product will turn out good,” Stephanie Graham said. “People like the unique flavor and how unique kettle corn is to The County.”

The Halletts started West Mountain Kettle Corn in 2012 after seeing many kettle corn vendors at festivals in Florida, where they were living at the time. They became the only kettle corn vendor in Aroostook County and gained a following of regular customers who appreciated the homegrown product.

Frank Hallett said that he and Pam decided to sell the business in order to spend more time with their five grandchildren. They met the Grahams after Stephanie became a dedicated customer and noted how much she loved the kettle corn. 

“They [the Grahams] are young and energetic and have great enthusiasm,” Frank Hallett said. “We had been hoping to find people from The County who would want to keep the product the same and expand the fanbase.”

After the Halletts transferred ownership, they helped the Grahams order equipment and showed them how to make kettle corn. Though Frank Hallett said that their kettle corn recipe is a “secret,” he is glad that the Grahams have kept the taste the same. 

“I think they’re doing a fantastic job. People have told us how much they still like the product because it’s the same as before,” Frank Hallett said.

Originally the Halletts named the business West Mountain Kettle Corn after a mountain that stands behind their cottage on Portage Lake. Dustin Graham said that he and Stephanie changed the name because they do not have a personal connection to West Mountain and wanted the name to be one people would easily recognize.

Despite the challenges of balancing the kettle corn business with their day jobs — Stephanie is a registered nurse at Cary Medical Center while Dustin is a loan officer at the County Federal Credit Union — the couple hopes to gradually add more festival and event dates to their line-up. 

Folks can follow their outings on the County Kettle Corn Facebook page.

“We’re thankful to Frank and Pam for spending time to make sure we got the process right,” Stephanie Graham said. “We’re looking forward to going new places and meeting different people.”

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