Here's something I learned last month. The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is recognized by the good people at Guinness World Records as the world's largest maple syrup festival. How's that for eye-opening?
Okay... a little background. If you drive a little farther than 100km west of Toronto, you'll be in a small community named Elmira, Ontario. It is the largest community in Woolich Township in Waterloo County. Like the rest of Waterloo Region, its roots are firmly planted in Mennonite traditions. The festival itself is more than 40 years old and attracts approximately 60,000 people each year.
Although I don't attend each year, I usually head in once every two or three years and load up on syrup. Once you get into greenspace and away from concrete, the drive is lovely and you can usually see Mennonites lined on either side of the road, sitting by their buggies or at folding tables selling their mapley wares: maple syrup (of course) maple butter, maple sugar, maple candies and butter tarts (maple optional).
While at the festival you can take a sugar bush tour where you go into the bush, learn how trees are tapped and the sap is boiled down to make syrup. There are also candy-making distributions. One of the biggest draws is the pancake breakfast. Like any community festival or fair, there are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. The breakfast is, I'm told, primarily staffed by volunteers from local churches. I think they make some of the best pancakes I've ever had--yes, I know the pancakes aren't made from scratch, but I don't care...there's something about the expertise, the griddles and the open air (plus the fresh syrup) that makes it all so good. And the price is insanely low.
The main street is blocked off and vendors of all sorts set up tents and tables. You can find the usual crafts and jewellery there, but also a range of foods. You can buy all sorts of sweets (cotton candy, candied apples, maple candies), but also roasted chicken and pork, gyros, felafels, a chocolate fountain all this along with roast corn and sweet potatoes. I think my favourites are the cheese breads, bacon sandwiches (made with grilled back bacon and onions) and, of course, apple fritters.
This year I brought my camera and took some pictures...and I don't know if that character is the Festival mascot, but the little boy who was greeting everyone was so cute...:
tags: Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Before the nonsense: 44 cups; 3 free coffees, 1 free doughnut
Now: 43 cups, 7 free coffees