Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
A New Chance
Last year when we were invited to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, I had to decline, because it was too early to travel after my surgery. However, this year when we received an invitation again, we jumped at the chance! The weather gods must have known that we were going to travel a fair distance because the sun was shining high in the sky, and the temperature was very accommodating! The traffic gods were also smiling upon us, because the trip through on the 401 through Toronto was perfect! We traveled to Elmira via Guelph. As we neared Elmira the traffic became quite heavy. Sabina Vison, our contact at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival had pre-warned us that this might happen, so we were prepared “to be patient”! Our “patience” finally paid off, when we found “parking lot 4”. It had one space left! We had just parked our car when the "tractor pulled hay wagon" came up the road and stopped immediately at a close by boarding station. We clambered up the steps and squeezed ourselves in amongst the other wagon riders. We wound our way through the backstreets and eventually the main street to the festival area.
Walking the Festival
Again, we had been warned that the festival would be quite busy, but I don’t think that Judi and I were prepared for the numbers of people we saw! The main Elmira street, Arthur, was literally jammed with festival visitors! The layout of the festival was interesting. Vendor booths were set up in the middle of the street. This allowed festival goers to discover either what the vendors had to offer or to wander into Elmira's retail stores. And discovering and wandering they were! The vendors that seemed to be the busiest were the food booths. Even though there was a large variety, most booths had long line-ups! We wound our way through the crowds, until we came to the festival headquarters. Here we introduced ourselves to Sabina. She gave us a brief history and a quick outline what the festival had to offer. From what she described, it looked like we were going to have a full afternoon. From the headquarters, we continued on down the main street, admiring what the booths had to offer and taking in the smells and the sweet sounds of the festival. We reached the end of the street and then started to double back. Halfway back we saw a large banners showing us the way to the Pancakes! We followed the crowds to the "Elmira Maple Syrup Festival pancake area" and joined hundreds of others in one of the six lines waiting to be served. As we waited our turn, I noticed a sign on the middle tent saying "that the festival had raised a million dollars plus for local charity". Very impressive! Inside the pancake tents a production line sped hungry festival goers quickly and efficiently. They had both an outside and a tent covered eating area. We chose the tented area. After devouring the maple syrup soaked pancake, we headed to the next attraction.
Our first stop was at Old McDonald’s Farm. It was great seeing all the kids and their parents enjoying the farm animals. Judi was especially intrigued by the “three little pig”. I’m petty sure she was thinking about our days on the farm and the pigs we used to play soccer with! From Old McDonald’s Farm, we walked one of the side roads to where a large line-up of people were waiting to take the bus trip to the maple syrup farm. After seeing how long the line-up was, Judi and I decided to continue on to some of the other Elmira Maple Syrup Festival attractions. The first one we came to was the Toy Show and Sale. It’s shows like this that make me want to be a kid again. There was everything from plush toys to model cars and flying toy helicopters to scale model boat builders! From the Toy Show we walked to the memorial arena. On our way, we passed the Children’s Midway. Inside the arena there were two events taking place. We visited the Antique Show and Sale first and then the MegaMuts Dog Show. Inside the antique area, there were not only antique booths set up, but in the middle there was a show of antique and classic cars! One of the cars, a MGA, reminded me of the first car I owned, which was a 1959 Triumph TR2A. After taking in as much of the show as we could we joined the line-up for the MegaMuts Show. Fortunately, we didn’t have long to wait and took our seats in the arena. The MegaMuts show started off with precision marching that showed just how well trained these dogs were. I think I should have taken a video of it so that I could have shown our dog, Dusty, just how it was done. What’s that saying … “it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks”? Dusty probably could change, but I couldn’t!
The Sugar Bush
We decided to leave the MegaMuts Show a little early so, that we could catch one of the last buses to the Maple Sugar Bush. It’s a good thing that we left when we did, because we caught the second to last bus. The trip from town to the Sugar Bush took about 15 minutes. At the Weber’s Maple Syrup Farm, a tractor pulled trailer pulled up to a loading stand and everyone from the bus climbed aboard. It was a short, but bumpy ride to the bush, but one full of anticipation! At the Sugar Shack we off loaded and joined others who were already there. The first thing that caught our attention was a "hug black pot" that was held by chains over an open roaring fire. They were cooking and popping "kettle popcorn". The smell was alluring. All about us, there were maple trees with hanging buckets capturing large quantities of sap. The scene beside the sugar shack reminded me of a Peter Etril Snyder painting. If you are not a regular to the area, you may not know that Snyder's wonderful rural Mennonite scenes which often included horse drawn wagons. After taking in this romantic scene we continued on into the sugar shack. Here was a scene that we never go tired of, the wood fire and the steam rising off the boiler! Inside the shack, the sunshine was beaming through a small window pane. Back outside, we joined the line-up that would take us on a wagon ride back to the farm. From the farm, on a school bus back to Elmira, and finally a wagon ride, back to our car. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival and were thankful that the organizers, especially Sabina, had remembered re-invited us.