August 17, 2019

If you thought that maple syrup was limited to pancakes and waffles, think again. This massive festival has incorporated maple syrup into just about everything imaginable.

Last Saturday on April 6, that’s exactly what tens of thousands of visitors came to Woolwich Township to experience.

In the mid ’60s, Elmira, Ont., celebrated its rich sugar bushes by having a maple syrup festival, where they originally expected an attendance of around 2,500 people. However, the actual numbers were closer to 10,000 people, ensuring that the festival would become an annual event.

Since then, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival has grown substantially.

In 2000, the event broke a Guinness World Record for largest single-day maple syrup festival in the world with around 66,500 visitors.

Cathy Read-Wilson, a volunteer from the Elmira Theatre Company, said that the festival is almost entirely run on a volunteer basis with profits going back towards local organizations and businesses.

According to Read-Wilson, setting up for the festival begins at around 1 a.m., when the main street is closed. The event begins at 7 a.m. and rus until 4 p.m.

A booklet on the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. Photo by Clara Montgomery, Spoke News

As for things to do at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, the possibilities are endless. There’s live music, arts and crafts, wood sawing competitions, pancake flipping contests, sugar bush tours, and of course, lots and lots of food.

The vendors at this year’s event were almost entirely local and take a lot of pride in their products.

The Thomas family of Thomas Sugarbush has been in the maple syrup industry for 81 years and a main staple of the Elmira festival for more than 50 years.

“The operation was started by my father when he was 12 years old in 1938, so this is our 81st year,” said Philip Thomas. “We enjoy coming to the festival. Lots of crowds, especially on a day like today when it’s so sunny and warm. It’s really a pleasure.”

Thomas said that, from the end of February up until the syrup festival, it’s basically a full-time job in syrup production for their family.

“We sell about 20-25 per cent of our production over the year so it’s definitely worth coming to the festival,” he said.

Thomas also said that his favourite part of the festival is the people.

“Meeting people, especially repeat customers; we do have a number of those. So it’s always fun to reacquaint with those who have enjoyed our products in the past.”

Whether they were there for the socializing or the syrup, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival had something for everyone.

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