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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Lumberjack weekend taps into ‘2024 Maple Fest’ at John R. Park Homestead




by Garrett Fodor

From tapping trees, to learning the techniques and the process of making nature's sweet treat, the John R. Park Homestead and surrounding businesses celebrated all things maple over the weekend.  

  This past weekend, ERCA – along with the support from over 10 local businesses and partners – helped to kick off the annual “2024 Maple Fest.” The festival is spread over four-days, across two weekends, offering families from across the region an opportunity to embark on a sweet journey of learning how maple syrup is made. Visitors also had a chance to explore the history of the process, as along with the grounds of John R. Park Homestead and surrounding area were dubbed the “Maple Trail.” 

  “It’s great being able to see so many families from across the region coming and enjoying the festival and learning about it,” Kris Ives, Curator and Education Coordinator for the Essex Regional Conservation Authority (ERCA), said.

  “March is Maple Month and for us, we’ve got our festival spread across four-days. Some families might be staying home over March Break, so it is great to offer programming for them, while also having the opportunity to join local businesses for the ‘Maple Trail’ and encourage more local tourism during a quiet season.”

  This past weekend, as a part of the festival, ERCA celebrated “Lumberjack Weekend,” as activities and programs across Saturday and Sunday featured different themes including a mustache and beard contest spread across different categories. It also offered the opportunity to learn the processes of cultivating maple syrup, including the use of a modern evaporator, and black smith displays.

  Visitors also had a chance to learn how pioneers used to make maple syrup traditionally. That included tree cutting and carrying sap on their shoulders. They also learned the difference between other traditional and modern-day production processes.

  They were also offered the chance to indulge in maple products on-site and across the maple trail from local shops and artisan vendors.

  Each weekend of the event features the crowd favourite opportunity of trying the traditional maple taffy on snow.

  “Honestly, it has been great, and overall we are extremely fortunate to have had such nice weather,” Ives said. “It’s truly rewarding. To me, my favourite part is the boast-worthy beard and moustache contest. It’s not specific to age or gender, offering different categories for everyone, and everyone who participated just seemed to have a lot of fun.” 

  While the first weekend was dubbed the “Lumberjack Weekend,” the next one on March 16th and 17th is titled the “Taster’s Weekend,” which will feature maple sugar and maple butter tastings, along with learning about the different tastes and grades of maple syrup.

Tasters Weekend will also feature more local businesses on hand offering and selling their own maple-related treats.

  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 had to offer. She added that all park pass holders are also able to enjoy the festival. 

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