Maple syrup festival coming March 28-29

March 18, 2015   ·   0 Comments

As Mother Nature begins to tease us with hints of spring, the turning of the seasons brings with it a favourite local ‘spring’ event; the Maple Syrup Festival.

The event, which is run by the Optimist Club of Orangeville, has been held at the Island Lake Conservation Area for more than 20 years and has become an annual tradition for many local families, as well as a new and unique event for those newer to the area.

“We’re really excited to be holding the Maple Syrup Festival again,” said Derek Bennett, Vice President of the Optimist Club. “We made some changes over the last few years, and they have been very well received. We’re looking forward to running another great event again this year.”

Some of the things they introduced to the event schedule a few years ago included a vendors’ market, more children’s activities and games, magician shows, and other attractions to help make the festival into the kind of event that families could spend several hours at.

“The Maple Syrup Festival is always a lot of fun for everyone who attends,” said Mr. Bennett. “People have a lot of fun, and they are able to stick around for the while to see everything.”

This year’s festival will see the return of the face-painting, balloon making, and vendors’ market, along with everyone’s favourite, the pancake ‘breakfast’ and BBQ, as well as maple syrup and maple candy sales.

The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the First Nations people, who used it both as a food and a medicine. They would make incisions into trees with stone and bone implements their tomahawks and use birch bark containers to collect the sap. The sap could be reduced into syrup by evaporating the excess water by plunging hot stones into the sap. They also increased the sugar content by removing the frozen water layer after the nightly freezing of the sap.

When the early European settlers came to North America, they learned from the Aboriginal people that sap could be made into sugar. They European settlers had access to metals and used their metaliron tools to tap the trees and then boiled the sap in the iron or copper kettles. Maple syrup was the preferred sweetener used by the early settlers since white refined sugar from the West Indies was highly taxed and very expensive. As white refined sugar became less expensive, it began to replace maple syrup and maple sugar as a relied-upon sweetener. Maple syrup production is now approximately one-fifth of what it was in the beginning of the 20th century. In Canada, sugar maples are only found in select regions.

According to Wikipedia, the first maple syrup festival was held in the United States in the 1940s, as a way to help promote the village and increase sales of maple syrup. From there the idea spread, eventually coming to Ontario in the 1960s, where it became a popular annual event in many smaller communities like Orangeville.

Two of the oldest traditions of the festivals, which trace back to the origins of the events in Ontario, still occur as a major feature of today’s events: the tour of the sugar bush, and a demonstration of the making of maple syrup in the sugar shack.

The tour was made more interactive for kids with the implementation of a short skit by volunteers about different methods of harvesting sap and creating syrup throughout Canadian History.

“At the end of the tour, after they’ve seen the demonstration in the sugar shack, everyone gets to make their own maple taffy on the snow from fresh made syrup,” said Mr. Bennett. “That seems to be a part that everyone loves to do.”

This year, the festival will run on March 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. As parking at the event is extremely limited and often fills up pretty quickly, the Optimist Club will be providing shuttles from three different parking spots: Pinehurst Store Fixtures (located at 120 C-Line), the Home Depot parking lot and the Lions Home Show at the Orangeville Fairgrounds. Shuttles will run every 15-20 minutes to and from these locations, between 9:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.. It is recommended that anyone wishing to attend both the Home Show and Maple Syrup Festival via shuttle dress for both indoor and outdoor events.

The cost of admission is $10 for adults and $5 for youth aged 4-12. Children 3 and under are free. Activity passports are included in the price of admission and provide access to a variety of activities.

For more information visit the Events tab on the Optimist Club’s website at

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