50th Annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

By Megan Stulberg

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I was recently invited to spend a weekend at the farm where my best friend grew up in Elmira, Ontario. Visiting a town with a whopping population of 9,931, you’d expect a relaxing and quiet weekend in the country, no? Well, it certainly started off that way: I spent Friday evening playing with the family’s seven household pets and watching Come Dine With Me reruns. The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am and then walked around outside in the cold for the next 10 hours. And I had the best time.

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival has been an annual event for the past 50 years. The main attraction is, of course, the maple syrup and related food vendors. The event attracts 60,000 people every year, and most can be seen walking around, munching a lamb’s leg, a stack of pancakes or something deep-fried.

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Oh, the maple syrup! It was heavenly. There was maple syrup on everything: maple lattes, maple taffy, maple kettle corn, maple syrup baked beans, maple syrup candies, and Beaver Tails with maple butter. I didn’t want to slip into a sugar coma, so I decided to limit my syrup intake. Well, I tried.

First, I decided to sink my teeth into some maple taffy. Maple taffy is made by boiling maple sap over a fire until it turns into maple syrup and then continuing to boil it until it becomes thicker. It is then poured onto snow and picked up with a stick, once partially cooled, and then served. I had to wait a solid 45 minutes for one small piece, but it was worth it to get such a decadent start to the morning.

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Next, I tried maple sugar. By “tried” I mean I sampled a small piece for free and then proceeded to buy 12 more. Maple sugar is prepared much like maple taffy, but is boiled for much longer until it solidifies. These soft and sweet candies were sold by countless vendors all over the festival, but I bought mine from a small table run by local Mennonites on the outskirts of town in front of a McDonald’s for 25 cents a piece. I also bought a few small tubs of pure maple syrup to take home for loved ones.

By midday, my friends were getting hungry so we decided to venture away from the festival for a bit in an attempt to get a healthier lunch. Luckily for us, there were tractor-pulled wagon rides available: the town’s adorable version of a free shuttle bus. This was the first — and probably last — time I rode to a fast-food restaurant sitting on a bail of hay, sandwiched in between two teenage girls in bonnets.

The festival really is an event for both the locals and the tourists.

Overall, it was an incredibly fun, family-friendly day. Sometimes I forget how Canadian I am — and then I go to something like this and have a blast. To keep updated on next year’s festival, “Like” their official page on Facebook here.

I’ll just go ahead and tempt your tastebuds with a few more photos that show off some of the many treats that were enjoyed at the Maple Syrup Festival:

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Salted soft pretzel with Dijon mustard

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Deep-fried Mars bar on a stick

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“Tornado Potato” paired with ghost pepper ketchup. Other ketchup flavours included maple and banana

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Deep-fried apple fritters

Select photos by Aine Davis

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