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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

ERCA taps into expanded Maple Festival 


by Garrett Fodor

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) and surrounding local businesses are tapping into trees, along with local heritage traditions, in celebration of the annual Maple Festival.

This past weekend, ERCA kicked off its annual Maple Syrup Festival. Spanning three weekends and running until March 19, the event has grown to feature activities at two sites, including the John R. Park homestead and the Holiday Beach Conservation Area, in addition to nine local businesses showcasing the many uses for maple syrup in and around Essex County.

“We have been hosting a Maple Festival for over 30-years,” Kris Ives, Curator and Education Coordinator for ERCA, detailed. “We have grown the event now, featuring a second site [at Holiday Beach] offering other activities, along with the new maple trail spanning across so many of our surrounding businesses. It’s truly an opportunity to see maple making, starting with pioneers and early settlers, all the way up to modern day maple making and how many of the processes are the same.”

The first weekend was “Lumberjack Weekend,” which featured various lumberjack inspired activities and costumes. March 11 and 12 will be the “Taster’s Weekend,” and will give visitors a chance to learn about the grades of maple syrup, uses, and baked goods. Closing out the month, on March 18 and 19, the Maker’s Weekend will teach the origins of maple making.

Each weekend of the event, attendees will be able to see the process of making maple syrup from the start through to the finish, from taping the trees to collecting the sap and later boiling it to remove the excess water. Attendees are also invited to participate in trying the maple taffy on snow.

Ives noted she is extremely proud of the first weekend, as hundreds of people enjoyed the maple offerings and the festival each day. She is excited to see the event continue to grow, now featuring the maple trail across nine local businesses, showcasing various artisan makers and uses for maple.

“We have tried to show all of the parts of the process from start to finish,” Ives said. “It’s truly a fun family event with so much going on each week. To cap it off, the taffy making is my favourite part. Pouring the perfectly cooked sugar on the snow. We see so many people, new Canadians, people from different provinces, and even people from Quebec, all enjoying it. We look at our flag, featuring the maple leaf and seeing people put it together and why it’s our national symbol is rewarding.”

Ives invites everyone interested to visit its website essexregionconservation.ca/maple to learn more about the festival or to pre-order advance tickets. She encourages families to spend a day exploring the festival and the maple trail and all it has to offer.

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