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50,000 to 60,000 visit Elmira for sap festival

It’s never easy following up a record-setting performance, something that organizers of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival discovered last Saturday.

Despite ideal temperatures and sunny skies, the estimated number of attendants to the festival is down compared to last year, with somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 people coming to Elmira – down from a historical best of 80,000 last year.

“I was a good year. A normal year,” said chairperson Cheryl Peterson. “People compare it to last year but that was just a phenomenal year.”

Peterson also said the slight drop in numbers was actually good for the crowds that did come because there were fewer people to contend with for space in the busy downtown streets, and she said that virtually all of the nearly 150 vendors were pleased with the turnout and with the day as a whole.

Explaining the drop in attendance is a complicated matter. Had it rained or snowed all day it would be easier to understand, but in an unfortunate twist, the warm weather the region experienced in mid- to late-March – with temperatures reaching summery 25 to 27 degrees – actually made the single-digit temperatures we had last Saturday morning feel downright chilly, and that may have played a small role in keeping some people away, Peterson said.

“Usually a six-degree weather day in March is great for people to get out,” she said.

She also noted that high gas prices and the still-struggling economy may have taken their toll as well, saying that many factors affect attendance each year.

While the day started slowly, it picked up by the early afternoon as the sun came out and raised temperatures up into the double-digits, and despite the drop in attendance there is not likely any threat to the town’s Guinness Book of World Record status as the world’s largest one-day maple syrup festival, established in 2000 when 66,529 people attended.

The organizing committee held a debriefing meeting this past week, and final numbers of pancakes sold and total attendance were not available for press, but Peterson said they did use more than 600 litres of maple syrup throughout the day.

Last year some 14,000 pancakes and 800 litres of syrup were consumed by the crowds.

Of course it’s impossible to forget that the EMSF is also a major fundraiser in the community, and last year 23 community groups received about $60,000 in grant money from the festival. While Peterson said that number will likely drop this year, it’s still a great cause, and the money will be distributed on June 13.

Peterson extends her thanks to the more than 2,000 volunteers who came out to make the day run smoothly.

The 2013 Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is set for Apr. 6, rain or shine, and planning for that will begin this fall. Visit www.elmiramaplesyrup.com for more information.

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