September 28, 2020

BY HEATHER KENNERY
The smell of maple wafted  through the air as children bounced around, high off of the maple syrup-covered pancakes they had just gobbled down, their hands still sticky from the messy breakfast.
The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival attracted approximately 75,000 people on April 6, who enjoyed not just the famous syrup but delicious food from all around the world. Families also enjoyed live entertainment and activities in the arena. This spring festival has been bringing together people of all ages to celebrate the gooey sugar since 1965.
The festival is run by volunteers who are happy to celebrate Elmira’s history of producing some of the world’s best maple syrup. Maple syrup farmer, Edgar Gingrich, who sells his maple syrup year-round at a stall at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, said he is happy to be a part of the spectacle. Gingrich has been setting up a booth at the festival for 15 years but has been in business for 25. He said coming to the festival is a long process.
“Today my whole family is here with me. We have 2,800 taps and started collecting five weeks ago for the light grade maple syrup but now we’re collecting the medium amber syrup,” he said.
Gingrich said he would be going to collect more sap after he was done working at the festival since the sun was out. The season depends strictly on weather. In the day the temperature must get to around 5 C and drop to -6 C at night. After the sap is collected it is boiled to evaporate the water; depending on the amount of sugar in the maple tree’s sap it can take up to 86 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup.
Gingrich makes four different grades of maple syrup, all of which have different strengths of maple flavour. According to www.cookthink.com, light syrup is best for making candy and has a delicate flavour while dark amber syrup has a much stronger maple taste which people use as table syrup for pancakes.
Chairperson of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Ken Jessop, said this festival is different than other sap festivals.
“We are 100 per cent volunteer based. With the help of the community and over 2,000 volunteers we are able to create a successful event, and the proceeds go back to the community,” he said.
Annually the festival donates up to $50,000 to Elmira and Woolwich Township, and has donated $1.5 million over the past 48 years. They donate 40 per cent of the proceeds to the Elmira District Community Living centre and divide the rest among organizations that have applied for grants. Elmira District Community Living is a local association that provides many services, including assisted living and work programs for people with intellectual disabilities.
Jessop knows the festival is successful because of the community’s continual support, and is excited to be chairperson for next year, when the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival celebrates its 50 anniversary.
“We have already started planning for next year and hope to expand the events that happen at the arena. We will have more entertainment that is kid friendly while keeping the traditional street festival,” he said.