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Elmira Maple Syrup Festival - the big one (24 photos)

Thousands pour in to the mother of all maple festivals

It's not called the largest single-day maple syrup festival in the world for nothing. 

Thousands upon thousands packed four blocks of Arthur Street and several other venues in the town of Elmira on Saturday, as the annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival arrived. The town of about 12,000 likely doubled in population for the day.  

In the roughly 15-minute drive from the edge of Guelph to the edge of Elmira, there were about a dozen maple syrup vendors along the highway selling fresh syrup from this year's tapping and boiling. Most of those were Mennonites, renowned for their sugaring prowess. 

There were plenty of maple syrup vendors as well along Arthur Street, all highlighting the importance of the maple tree and its delectable sap to families and the local economy in this part of Ontario. 

Producer Murray Reist said the season was a long and confusing one. Due to the weather there was uncertainty about when to start tapping. Then the sap run stalled for several days as temperatures dropped and snow came. It dragged on for six weeks, he said. 

Reist has been a fixture at the festival for many years, bringing the mobile sugar shack from his West Montrose Maple Products operation to demonstrate the process and sell the family's golden production. He credited the vast team of volunteers for making the festival extraordinary success that it is. 

"Maple syrup is pretty important to a lot of people around here," he said. "Many farmers have a sugar bush, and maple syrup is part of their revenue every year, whether they have 20 taps or a thousand."

Along with the thousands of bottles of locally made syrup available for purchase at the event, there were giant barbecued turkey legs, massive hunks of fudge, sizeable pancakes, potato chips on a skewer, and a maple toffee demonstration. And that was only a fraction of what was going on.