There are a few key things to remember if you’re heading to town for the 46th annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival next weekend: plan ahead, and be hungry! With row upon row of vendors selling everything from pork-on-a bun and pita sandwiches to apple fritters and maple cones, eating the goodies is an integral part of the festivities.
EMSF chair Cheryl Peterson offered up her own strategy for getting the most out of the festival.
“Get there early,” she noted. “Or if you can’t get there early, plan to visit each booth or attraction at a time when it’s not quite as busy.”
Peterson and her team of volunteers have spent the better part of a year planning and setting up, and after last year’s cold weather and high winds, they’re simply hoping for good weather.
“Spring-like weather always brings a good number of people out to the festival,” she noted. “I am hoping we will have a really good mix of people who are local and then those who come from out of town for the big day.”
But according to Bernadine Horst of Norman Horst Farm, the unseasonably high temperatures we have been enjoying have been taking a toll on maple syrup producers.
“We hope for good weather on festival day, but it’s tricky. So far the sap season has been very slow,” she explained. “It’s very unusual. The weather has been nice but the syrup has not run much at all. We are hoping for a cold snap.”
As of Mar. 16, the farm had only produced 270 litres of sap, a pale comparison to the 1,300 litres they recorded at around the same time last year.
“It’s a bit of a mystery,” Horst said. “Some years are much better than others, but we are still hoping to get more this year.”
Horst and her husband Norm have been preparing for the big day in a number of different ways, as their farm will offer visitors sugar bush tours on festival day as well as supply the Kiwanis Club with some syrup for potato pancakes.
“We’re getting ready – Norm has been out tapping the trees and I am in the process of making lots of goodies and candies and syrup,” said Bernadine. “I am going to be making maple treats like taffy cones and maple candies.”
In addition to the typical events and attractions, Peterson notes that there will be a few new attractions in the mix as well including a tractor pull for kids and an Olympic theme during the pancake flipping contest (for which they are still looking for a few volunteers), with a few past Olympians even scheduled to attend.
But before all that happens, Peterson is simply looking forward to 7 a.m. on festival day, when all the planning and preparations will have been worthwhile.
“I am excited for that first pancake to be served, for the first sausage to be put on a bun,” she said. “When everything comes together because of all the volunteers’ hard work, that is the best part.”