If you're looking for a good reason to get outside the house this weekend, visit the largest single-day Maple Syrup Festival in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records.
The 51st annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival occurs Saturday, March 28th in this quiet community of 7,500, and draws annually 60,000 to 80,000 visitors. It runs from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Elmira is about a two hour, drive from Niagara.
Elmira's Maple Syrup Festival chair, Drew McGovern says, "Our festival is considered to be the first real sign of spring. It takes about 2,000 volunteers to pull this off and all the profits raised are given to charitable and non-profit organizations." There are plenty of things to do besides eating pancakes smothered with maple syrup. (One pancake $4.00 and each additional pancake $2.00).
Another highlight is exploring the Sugar Bush and seeing how maple sap is collected and processed into the sweet product many of us enjoy. The Sugar Bush remains open until 3:30 p.m. The cost is $5.50 for adults and from 3 to 12 years of age $3.50. There are other happenings such as a traditional pancake flipping contest, countryside tours, and an Old MacDonald's Farm.
You can browse the village mall for crafts, apple fritters, and baked goods or have a mouth-watering home-style meal at one of the local churches.
There are also two shows you can attend, a Quilt and Craft and an Antique Collectibles that operate until 4 p.m. New this year is an exhibit called,
"It's An Honour". This is a large trailer that exhibits a collection of every medal the Governor General of Canada is permitted to award individuals.
Over 100 people are expected to take place in a new race called, "The Pancake Mile." Participants each run a quarter of a mile and eat a pancake (4 in total) and the person with the quickest time becomes part of the inaugural races history. All registration fees go to charities.
Parking at $5.00 per vehicle is available on the outskirts of town. This includes a hayride to and from the festival site.
If travelling to Elmira is a bit too much, try White Meadows Farm at 2519 Effingham Road, Fonthill to enjoy their Maple Syrup Festival. When we visited the site earlier this week the sap had just started to run and the place was a hive of activity.
The Bering family has been working these fields for over 75 years. Murray Bering told me, "We first started out as a dairy farm and gradually moved into Maple Syrup. We're very happy as to how it has turned out and excited to see the fifth generation growing up on the farm."
A big part of the fun of is taking the bouncing Sugar Shuttle tractor ride to the sugar bush. Once there we followed groomed trails where we were entertained by costumed interpreters who explained about each stage of the processing of Canada's first harvest of the year, maple syrup. At one of the stations along the trail a lumberjack had a few of the younger visitors helping him saw a log.
Remember to dress for the outdoors. Both attractions are not wheelchair accessible and it does require a bit of stamina to walk the trails. After our walk we enjoyed a reasonably priced pancake meal at the onsite, Pancake House Restaurant. Before we left we visited the Sugar Shack Shop where we grabbed a few taffy-on-a-stick for our grandchildren.
White Meadows Farms remains open until March 29th between 9:30 a.m. until 3.30 p.m. Parking is free. The costs are: Adults, $9.50 (18 plus), Youth $8.00 (13-17 years) and children $6.00 (2-12years)
Facts About Maple Syrup:
Canada produces 71% of the world's pure maple syrup of which 91% is produced in Quebec.
Maple syrup is a completely natural product with no additives.
It takes approximately 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup.
About 90 %% of Canadian maple syrup goes to the U.S.
The maple syrup industry generates $53 million per year.
Source: Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
49th Annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Elmira Maple Syrup Festival 2013
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.