Sunny skies, milder weather see 70,000 flock to Elmira for sap fest

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - WHIT­NEY NEIL­SON

THOU­SANDS OF PAN­CAKES WERE served and gal­lons of maple syrup were poured on Satur­day as 70,000 peo­ple de­scended on Elmira’s down­town for the 53rd an­nual Elmira Maple Syrup Fes­ti­val.

Fes­ti­val chair Drew McGovern is call­ing this year’s it­er­a­tion a suc­cess, es­ti­mat­ing 70,000 peo­ple at­tended the fes­ti­val this year. This is up from last year’s es­ti­ma­tion of 60,000 to 62,000. In 2015, they said some 65,000 peo­ple showed up.

It ap­pears the milder tem­per­a­tures and a lack of pre­cip­i­ta­tion drew peo­ple out for the world’s largest one-day maple syrup fes­ti­val.

Be­fore the sun had fully risen, or the pan­cakes even hit the grid­dle, peo­ple were lined up wait­ing to get their an­nual fill of flap­jacks and syrup.

And if pan­cakes aren’t up your al­ley, there was a wide range of other op­tions at the ven­dor mall, like gi­ant turkey legs, grilled corn on the cob, juicy pick­les on sticks, warm ap­ple frit­ters, among a host of other treats.

“A few of us got to­gether [Sun­day] morn­ing to do a lit­tle walk around and clean up. Ev­ery­one was still pumped up, ev­ery­one was very happy with the out­come. We got the peo­ple that we wanted to get there and they seemed to be spend­ing the money. That makes us happy,” McGovern said on Mon­day morn­ing.

While out and about at the fes­ti­val he ran into peo­ple from Water­loo Re­gion who had never been to the fes­ti­val un­til this year. En­cour­aged by friends to check it out, he says they were im­pressed with what they found.

“There is some­thing there for ev­ery­one. You know, young peo­ple, they prob­a­bly like to eat, I guess. There’s no doubt there’s enough of that around. And then young fam­i­lies, I went into the Mac­Don­ald’s Farm and we had a new gen­tle­man who is tak­ing care of that. He was amazed at how many peo­ple were lined up at all given times. He was to­tally sur­prised.”

Al­ways look­ing to im­prove their of­fer­ings, the com­mit­tee added in­flat­able games for the kids out­side

the Wool­wich Memo­rial Cen­tre, as well as a va­ri­ety of food trucks, both of which ap­peared to go over well.

“They seemed to be busy the whole day. And com­pared to other years, that area was built up. We had a crew that took care of the rec. cen­tre and they came up with the idea just to try to fill in that car park and they did very well.”

They may look to add to that next year be­cause they want to get more peo­ple head­ing to the WMC dur­ing the day. At times, the out­door ven­dor mall on Arthur Street can be too con­gested, and hav­ing more op­tions at the WMC al­lows vis­i­tors to take a break from the crowds.

As for the pan­cake tent, he thinks they sold nearly 8,000 pan­cakes this year. In some years it’s been lower, at the 6,000 mark. They ac­tu­ally ran out of the fes­ti­val’s pride and joy – maple syrup – at one point in the af­ter­noon.

“I think we had 120 gal­lons and again that was based on last year’s us­age. I think last year we used about 110. That kind of shows you the in­crease.”

They found a Men­non­ite ven­dor in town sell­ing jugs of syrup, to buy from to fin­ish out the day.

The com­mit­tee met this week to go over how the fes­ti­val went and what changes they’d like to see for 2018.

“We haven’t lasted 53 years with no changes. We al­ways have to tweak it. If we had no changes we would still be mak­ing pan­cakes in a fry­ing pan on Arthur Street. Ob­vi­ously we can’t do that any­more.”

He notes they’re thank­ful for the sup­port of some 2,000 vol­un­teers who make the an­nual out­ing pos­si­ble, as well as sup­port from spon­sors, the town­ship, and the BIA. Com­mu­nity groups se­lected to re­ceive funds from the pro­ceeds of the fes­ti­val will do so in June.

“We’re very happy with the out­come and no ma­jor mishaps. Now our com­mit­tee gets a chance to rest up over the sum­mer be­fore we start again.”

Next year’s event is sched­uled for Apr. 7, 2018.

[LIZ BE­VAN / THE OB­SERVER]

Vol­un­teer Kris­tel Close and the star of the fes­ti­val, Flap­jack the pan­cake, greeted fes­ti­val-go­ers at the Wool­wich Memo­rial Cen­tre on Apr. 1. The good weather prompted some 70,000 vis­i­tors to come out.

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