Saturday, 5 April 2008

A Visit to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

After a long, snowy winter it was time for the first community agriculture-based festival of the year around here: the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. They bill themselves as the world's largest one-day maple syrup festival, and I believe it. Some friends of ours are volunteers there, and as we walked around they reckoned that there were likely more than 100,000 people there today, which would, we think, be a record. They had been expecting a more typical number; about 60,000. However, the weather has been so bad right up to now that people came out in droves for the first beautiful Saturday of the year - practically the first beautiful DAY of the year. A festival in the beginning of April gambles with the weather; we've been here when it's been -20°C, and when it's been 20°C. Today's temperature of about 11°C was very comfortable. We've also been here when the sleet was coming in sideways, but today was so bright and sunny. Perfection!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
I'm pretty sure it started at 7:00 am. Since we are a couple of sleepyheads, our efforts to get there at a reasonably early hour saw us walking into the downtown at around 8:30 am.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We slipped into town on back roads, and parked at our friends' house, as we knew from previous experience that the main road into town would be crazy. However, that meant we didn't get to park on the outskirts and ride into town on a haywagon pulled by a tractor.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We sussed this place out right away as the place we wanted to get lunch. Those are smoked turkey drumsticks on the grill, but they had lamb, beef or chicken pitas as well. The smell was tantalizing.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
So far, at 8:30, the crowds are manageable.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
The main street of Elmira is filled with booths selling food, food products and crafty things; some of them local clubs and organizations raising money, some of them local suppliers, and some of them folks who make the rounds of various fairs and festivals as their business. Even a few maple syrup vendors there. The food is definitely a lot more interesting than the crafts, I would have to say.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
This is the line-up for the pancakes. We didn't go for them. They are pretty ordinary pancakes, however good the syrup. Plenty of people do have them though; they serve about 15,000 pancakes and 725 litres of maple syrup.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
We had these pancakes instead. The line-up was much shorter!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Stemmler's is a local producer of cold cuts and other processed meats. They had a booth serving food to eat on the spot, as well as this one, selling meats to take home.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Another syrup vendor.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Funnel cakes! There were several people selling these, as well as apple fritter sellers. You could have gotten a deep-fried Mars bar here, if you wanted. I saw a few people walking around with them. A little scary if you ask me!

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Local bee-keepers with honey and beeswax candles.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Here's a picture of a few of the cooks at the main pancake kitchen. They have quite the assembly line going...

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
...they are at just one of about 4 or 5 long griddles.

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalHere's the line-up stretching back - first you get a ticket at the red booth, then you line up to collect your pancake.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
The line-up from another angle.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
And from another angle...


Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
By now the crowds on the main street were extremely thick. I could have taken a version of this picture over and over, everywhere on the street. It was pretty much standing room only.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Dill pickle onna stick! C.M.O.T. Dibbler should try his luck with these! At $1 per ginormous pickle, they struck me as one of the better deals and a great antidote to all the greasy and sugary food around.

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalDo you see the end of the street? Barely? That's where this line up turns the corner and you board a bus for a tour of a maple bush. Always assuming you remembered to line up elsewhere and get your ticket first. We decided we would rather go look at the antiques - although we could have looked at crafts and quilts if we preferred.

The festival goes on to about 5:00 pm, or until people go home (much earlier during bad-weather years) or when everyone runs out of food. We declared ourselves stuffed, broke and worn-out after lunch, and so headed home for a quiet afternoon of digesting.

p.s! Don't forget to look under Maple and Honey in my index to the right for some maple syrup recipes.

5 comments:

Kevin said...

A maple syrup festival sounds like fun! I will have to keep an eye out for some Ontario maple syrup. I know there is a shop at the St Lawrence Market here in Toronto that sells Quebec maple syrup year round.

Kevin Kossowan said...

J-E-A-L-O-U-S.

giz said...

The event itself is so great both here and in Quebec but the crowds would make me claustrophobic.

Bellini Valli said...

I was searching through your photos to see if I could see my mom and brother who were there also. I was at the Elmira Festival last when my daughter was still in a stroller. Of course out west here there is no maple syrup. I wait for my kind relatives to send me some:D I do have some birch syrup though produced in Abbotsford.

Ferdzy said...

It was a great event, although I did find the crowds a little overwhelming. And I'm not usually bothered by crowds.

Valli; I assume you didn't see them in my pics! I also know I wasn't the only food blogger there that day.

Kevin Kossowan, if you want to come and stay with us next year so you can attend, you are welcome to do so... all you need to do is bring B-A-C-O-N.