We attended the 43rd annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival this weekend. I remember attending around 1969 when our family still lived in Toronto little knowing I would move to this area. It has been a few years since we have visited the town on this special day. Tens of thousands of people crowd the main street of the town of 12,ooo. Maple bush tours are available and the local arena also hosts a craft show.
Elmira's Main Street
This year I noticed the Old Order Mennonite presence was pretty well absent in the town. My husband likes to buy a sausage on a bun, but it was easier to find Middle-Eastern souvlaki for sale. But the traditional offerings of pancakes, apple fritters and cheese curds were still readily available. I heard one visitor comment that this wasn't a syrup festival but a food festival.
My husband's friend buys syrup
We drove a short distance out of town and many Old Order Mennonites had set up tables at the end of their lanes or at intersections to sell their own maple products. We stopped and bought some syrup and maple butter cones from these young men who have a sugar bush and shack next to my husband's workplace. Their horse, harnessed to the buggy, waited patiently at the side of the road.
The first weekend in April can bring snow, rain, sleet or sun. This year the weather was beautiful and that was good news for the many volunteers who set up this outdoor festival. Much of the money raised goes to various charities and non-profit organizations. The syrup run is excellent this year as a good snow cover remains and the nights have been cool. For many farmers this is the first crop of the season.
I like fresh cheese curds a lot!
Eileen of Cicero Sings contacted me on Facebook to tell me that in the west, birch syrup is being produced. There are no sugar maples in western Canada and some inventive people have discovered that the sap of the white birch can be reduced to a unique sweetener. I have never heard of it and imagine it is more expensive than maple syrup.
Apple fritters are my favourite treat. I didn't wait in the lineups for any this weekend though. Most everything at the festival is available year round at our excellent local markets. We have ordered a case of maple syrup from a local farmer and get it in 14 oz. tins that are convenient to use and share. I imagine that early settlers in the area used only maple syrup and honey as sweeteners, liquid gold to be rationed to last until the next spring run.