History

Festival History

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival Banner | World's Largest FestivalOn April 10, 1965, Elmira celebrated its first Maple Syrup Festival. It was a warm and inviting day and all roads led to Elmira; the ladies were ready at their camp stoves and electric griddles, ready to serve pancakes and maple syrup to a crowd of hopefully 2,500. To everyone’s great surprise, 10,000 people made their way to Elmira that first year to savour the sweet taste of spring! And so, our Festival grew… and grew… and grew.

Thanks to our visitors from all over the world – Australia, Europe, Mexico, the USA, Canada, and even the North Pole – the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Single Day Maple Syrup Festival with 66,529 people attending in 2000.

We have come a long way from those early beginnings. A well-organized volunteer committee meets monthly throughout the entire year to arrange the event. On Festival Day a finely tuned team of 2,000 volunteers rises long before dawn to ensure the smooth running of the Festival throughout the entire day. In 2000, we served the 500,000th pancake and the mall grew from featuring 14 booths to offering products from more than 100 vendors. Then, in 2001, the Festival’s volunteers were one of 19 groups across the province recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation for their outstanding achievement.

Elmira’s Maple Syrup Festival is considered a true sign of spring; visitors are drawn by spring fever and a nostalgia for a rural way of life. Come join the fun—there is something for everyone young and old.

 

Selling pancakes at the first Festival ~ Brian Soehner
Herb Ainsworth, chair of the first festival, requested the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Youth Group to sell pancake tickets, I was a member of that youth group. Bill Otto was in charge of the Ticket Booth and Eldon Hoffer was the Treasurer. Bill had us use a picnic table placed in front of Cale’s Drug Store (now Read’s Decorating Centre), by 10 a.m. we had sold all the printed tickets, I kept running back to the Otto Men’s Wear Store to get more tickets and give Mr. Hoffer the cash. When we ran out of tickets we collected the used tickets from the Pancake Booth and when that no longer worked Bill instructed us to tear the tickets we had in half and sell them. You can imagine how difficult it was to convince people that a ripped ticket would work!

Maple Syrup Time
A poem by Elaine McDougall, 1996

Spring arrives with trees still bare,
The farmers work with special care
To tap the sweet natural fare,
It’s maple syrup time.

The days are warm, the nights are cool,
The snow melts into puddles and pools,
The farmers prepare their tapping tools,
It’s maple syrup time.

The Native People’s long ago
Discovered the sap that dripped and flowed,
They cooked it down—the process was slow,
In maple syrup time.

Tradition calls for buckets and spiles
And lots of wood split into piles,
Lots of work but lots of smiles,
In maple syrup time.

The pipeline is a current way
To bring in the sap that drips each day,
Gravity helps sap make its way,
In maple syrup time.

With forty parts of sap to start
The boiling is a major part,
The steam boils off leaving one small part,
It’s maple syrup time.

With planning, work and boiling done
The tastiest part has just begun.
There’s lots of maple recipe fun,
From maple syrup time.

The next time that you taste this treat
Think of the amazing feat.
Sap from trees into syrup to eat!
It’s maple syrup time.