Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
Elmira is a small town with a big asset.
Scratch that. Elmira is a small town with a big, sweet and runny asset.
Located in the Township of Woolich, Elmira celebrated its first Maple Syrup Festival on April 10, 1965 as a way to educate people about the local maple syrup industry. Around 10,000 people made their way to the festival that first year to savour the sweet taste of spring and see what all the fuss was about.
On March 31, they’re going to do it again. And if the numbers from last year are any indication the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival should attract upwards of 70,000 people. In 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records designated the event as the largest single-day maple syrup festival in the world.
The Maple Syrup Festival runs through the centre of town along Arthur Street between Church Street and South Street for four blocks, or about a kilometre. And rest assured every inch of that kilometre will be packed with syrup lovers from all over Ontario.
Cheryl Peterson, chairperson of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, says there are several reasons why this event has been successful.
“We’re the first maple syrup festival of the spring, so that helps a lot because we’re the festival that kicks off the maple syrup season,” says Peterson, adding that the event puts a lot back into the community and is completely volunteer based. “Another big reason for the popularity of the event is the outdoor mall — it’s filled with vendors, booths of all kinds, mostly food. Crafts, pussy willows, trinkets of all kinds, jewellery. There are over 150 vendors and it’s a lot of fun.”
And, of course, the main attraction is and always will be maple syrup and everything attached to it. Maple candy. Maple toffee. Maple syrup on pancakes ($4 single, $5 double), waffles, beavertails and apple fritters. Any way you can imagine enjoying it, someone in Elmira has thought of it.
There’s probably some poor, hapless soul out there who loves maple syrup on their hamburgers. And you know what? That’s okay. Nobody will judge you here.
And for traditionalists, you can always purchase the maple syrup in bottles of all sizes to take home with you.
There are several attractions that will interest everyone in your family. The Antique Show ($3 for adults and children, “babes-in-arms” free) and the Toy Show (Friday $3, Saturday $2, 12 and under free) take place on Friday, March 30 between 6-9:30 pm. These are the only two events happening on Friday evening. There’s also a Quilt and Craft Show and Sale ($2 adults, kids 12 and under free) that opens at 8 am on Saturday. For dog lovers, the MegaMutts Dog Show ($3 for adults and childrenh, “babes-in-arms” free) will go on at 10 am, 12:30 pm and 2 pm.
Tons of activities for the little ones, including a designated kids area that will be set up in the parking lot at the front of the Woolwich Memorial Centre on Snyder Avenue. Kids can enjoy Midway and pony rides. Kids can also enjoy children’s entertainer Erick Traplin, who will be on stage at 3 pm.
Food without maple syrup will also be served as well, from cinnamon bars, pickle on a stick, deep fried Mars Bar, back bacon and pulled pork on a bun. Kettle corn and French fries — in short, fun foods that you probably shouldn’t be eating will be available.
Foodies should check out Chef Darryl Fletcher of Chef D TV, an innovative online cooking show, who will be making a presentation at the festival at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Fletcher will be demonstrating to the audience — what else? — all the great dishes that can be made with maple syrup.
MORE ABOUT THE ELMIRA MAPLE SYRUP FESTIVAL
Event pricing and attraction details: elmiramaplesyrup.com/attractions
Event map: Click here to see Elmira Maple Syrup Festival Map
Schedule: The festival on March 31 runs from 7 am until 4 pm
Directions: Arriving on 401 from London – exit onto Highway 8 West to 7 eastbound proceed to the second exit of the roundabout and follow Arthur Street to Elmira. Arriving on 401 from Toronto – exit onto Highway 8 (exit 278B) to 7 eastbound proceed to the second exit of the roundabout and follow Arthur Street to Elmira. Click here to see more directions and information on accommodations.