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Sweet Success

Milton resident Lora Harless displays her creations of cookies and fudge during the Chili Fest and Craft Show for DD Awareness Saturday at Dawson-Bryant High School. THE TRIBUNE/JESSICA ST JAMES

COAL GROVE — It’s not your typical chocolate fudge. But coming up with new recipes is half the fun of making candy for Lora Harless, aka the Cookie and Candy Lady.

As she has in the past, Harless, based in Culloden, W.Va., brought her wares and enthusiasm for her products to the annual chili fest, sponsored by the Lawrence County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Saturday.

There she set up a makeshift shop with fudge flavors in cherry nut, white chocolate and hickory nut, pumpkin and orange sherbet, along with the usual fare of chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies and handmade Easter eggs. She and her husband, Dale, go to about 60 festivals a year, many in the Tri-State, including the upcoming Dogwood Festival in Huntington, W.Va.

Gearing up for a show can take several days, even weeks, in the kitchen. And that’s fine for Harless. It’s one of her favorite places in her house.

“My grandmother used to run a boarding house and I took after her,” Harless said. “I love to cook and bake.”

Although she can’t say how long she’s spent creating the sweet confections she loves to make, her husband jokes it’s been about six decades.

“I’ve been making candy a lot,” she concedes.

It’s her family she tries out her new recipes on calling them her guinea pigs. And all flavor innovations come out of her curiosity to see if she can make something different, like her cherry nut fudge.

“I figured if you can have cherry nut ice cream, you can have cherry nut fudge,” she said.

Her pumpkin fudge came about as she was brainstorming for items to sell at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Milton.

“I love the whole thing of doing this,” Harless said about touring the festival circuit. But her heart is still in the kitchen.

“If I get up and I don’t make something, it is not a good day for me,” she said.