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People out in droves for sap fest

Some 80,000 visitors, 14,000 pancakes, 2,000 volunteers and nearly 800 litres of maple syrup combined to make the 47th annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival a sweet success last Saturday.

Those numbers are up virtually across the board compared to other years as near-perfect weather and the well-executed event went off without a hitch, said EMSF chairperson Cheryl Peterson. Traffic was still backed up along Highway 85 bumper-to-bumper from Elmira to St. Jacobs around 2 p.m., which is virtually unheard of in previous years, she said.

“I talked to a lot of people and they were in such a great mood and upbeat and glad to be there, the energy was just so positive,” Peterson said, adding that one of the highlights of the day for her was, “knowing that we had this many people in town and how smoothly everything went, and how there was no major mishaps – no accidents, no issues all day.”

Peterson also estimated that 2,500 lb. (1,125 kg) of pancake batter was used throughout the day to make all of those delicious pancakes.

A BIG DAY Ethan Vanhoffen holds up the spoils of his participation in the log-sawing competition at the 47th annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival Apr. 2. More than 80,000 people crowded into town for the event.

With temperatures in the double digits and the sun shining all day, the crowds came early – the line for the pancakes formed before the first pancake left the griddle at 7 a.m. – and they stayed for the day to enjoy not only the syrup and the pancakes, but the apple fritters, the turkey legs, the dog show, the midway and the more than 100 vendors who lined the main street of downtown Elmira.

Back in 2000 the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the EMSF as the largest one-day maple syrup festival in the world when it attracted 66,529 people – a number easily surpassed this time around. And while the festival experienced a pancake shortage last year – about 15,000 were flipped in 2010 – this year they were more prepared, and the last pancake came off the griddle at around 2:45 p.m.

In the end, while the festival is a lot of fun for the entire family, it is also for a good cause. Every year the EMSF gives away grants to a number of local charities and non-profit organizations. Last year they distributed about $50,000 back into the community to 17 not-for-profit groups. This year will be no different.

“If the number of people that were here this year were spending the money, I’m hoping we can give that away again this year,” said Peterson.

A small army of volunteers are what make the festival happen every year as well. From setting up the day (and night) before, to the 300+ people cooking pancakes throughout the day of the event and the inevitable cleanup afterwards, Peterson estimates that nearly 2,000 volunteers donate their time to make the festival a success each year.

“In a town of 9,500 or so, that’s quite a percentage. How many other communities could boast that?” she said.

The day did include some surprises for festivalgoer’s, including a visit from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his wife Terri, who walked throughout the festival and bought food, syrup and even some pussy-willows.

For the festival committee of 25, their final wrap-up meeting was this past Wednesday, and there are a few more meetings on-tap to decide who will receive the grant money this year.

The final decision for dispersal of the funds will be announced on June 15. Then, the committee members will receive a well-deserved break before starting it all again next September.

“It was a fabulous day. It was beyond what we expected,” said Peterson. “We put a lot of hours into it as a committee, and to see that makes it all worth while. The hard work is worth it.”

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