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