Sunday, April 06, 2008

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

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.

Patient horse

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.


  1. Hello Ruth,

    I remember going to the Maple Syrup Festival (not a Purple Woods) with my family. It also reminds me eating apple fritters with you at the market.


  2. Anonymous8:34 pm GMT-4

    I would imagine the syrup you get must be miles better then that I get in the grocery store! Makes my mouth water to think of hot fresh apple fritters too (my favorite as well!)

    I saw birch syrup recently in a natural food store, it is cost comparable to that good quality maple syrup, here at least (which can easily be $20 for 8oz.)

    Still I refuse to put anything but pure maple syrup on my pancakes.

  3. Ruth,

    I enjoyed your photos of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. I have never been. Mom and I took the grandsons to Westfield Heritage Village this year. I posted photos last Monday. Mom and I were talking and decided that next year we may go to Elmira for a change. She has been there before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Yes, the Grand is a beautiful river. Have you ever seen the source? It's unbelieveable that a little stream such as that could turn into such a beautiful river.

    Thanks for commenting on my photos of the Grand. I always enjoy visiting with you.


  4. I love events like that - so glad the weather was good.

  5. What a delicious post! I'm hungry just reading it. Since moving to Maine, I have met people who use maple syrup in their coffee--I haven't tried that but do like it as a sweetener it baked goods, ice cream and pancakes.

  6. Yum, I am sure that the syrup you have will be unlike anything we could get in a store down here.

  7. Apple fritters and maple syrup - just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Hopefully next year I will have the opportunity to attend the Elmira event. If I drive in the area can I still find the Mennonites selling their products?

  8. Birdman- I haven't eaten apple fritters since that day. They were sooo good.

    Jaspenelle- I like the medium maple syrup rather than the light. It has lots of flavour. Let me know if you try birch syrup.

    Mary- I hope to see the Grand from one end to the other. I have been to Lake Erie and have seen most of it from our region south. They had 70,000 people at this year's festival. That is too crowded for me and likely for most children. Lots of walking!

    Jean- Last year the weather was horrid. It was good to make up for it this year.

    Beth- Maybe I would like coffee if it had maple syrup in it ;-)

    Jayne- I am spoiled with farm fresh syrup. I have never bought it at a grocery store.

    OmaLois- The Mennonites will be selling it this month at the roadside and at the farmers markets. (It is always available at the markets)

  9. Why thanks for the unexpected link! We were at Granville Market in Vancouver recently and they gave us a taste sample of birch syrup. It is, in deed, very expensive. One time D got a bottle for Christmas from some one, I think his sister, who found it at a local market (I believe from Moose Meadows Farm up in Quesnel (2.5 hrs north of here).

    I wish we could buy Maple Syrup locally like you do. What a blessing. We love it on our Oatmeal or Buckwheat, Pancakes and Waffles ... good on anything that you want to add a little something special to!

  10. Guess we had a great Maple Syrup year this year! Been a while since I have made a festival for Maple Syrup!

  11. I love country festivals like that.-Nice photos and you have influenced my breakfast choices for this weekend.


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