Dreary weather didn’t keep the syrup from flowing, or the money from coming in for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival this year, which was good news for the assorted groups that benefit from the profits. This year’s disbursements amounted to $36,000, handed out Wednesday night by EMSF chair Ken Jessop.
“We had a very successful day despite that weather,” said Jessop. “The crowds took some time to gather and we were happy that people came to savour the taste of spring.”
In honour of the festival’s 50th outing, local producers created a limited edition bottle of syrup, one of which he presented to Judy Biesinger, great grand niece of EMSF founder Herb Ainsworth. Jessop pointed out that Ainsworth had the vision for the festival.
“One of the remarkable things is that throughout the 50 years that we’ve been established as a festival we keep the traditions alive,” said Jessop. “There are only 1,100 of these being produced, so hopefully in another couple years this will be a collector’s item.”
Biesinger said her uncle would be so happy to know that over the 50 years of the festival that they’ve kept the tradition of giving back to the community.
“May this continue for the next 50 years,” she said.
A total of 25 groups received grants from the committee and Jessop said they pride themselves on never turning down an application, everyone from the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council to sledge hockey.
“One of the things that we’ve accomplished over the years is that we consistently, right from the first festival have been able to give back to the community and since 1965 we estimated that about $1.2 million has gone back to non-profit communities,” said Jessop.
The ‘Friends of the Festival” award, which has been awarded since 1991, was given to Joe Kelly for his commitment to the community.
“I’ve been out here 28 years, longer than that downtown as a firefighter. But doing inspections, out there 4:30 on nice warm, breezy days,” said Kelly, with a laugh. “It’s really heartwarming.”
A representative from each of the groups thanked the committee and explained what their money would be used for. Woolwich Sledge Hockey plans to use it for a new sled, so more people can get involved with the sport. The Region of Waterloo Library in Elmira hopes to spend the money on increasing their microform collection.
Jessop said he hopes the festival will continue for another 50 years and break the confirmed attendance record of 61,000. He said they estimated in 2010 there were 80,000 in town for the festivities, and he’s often asked how they counted that many people.
“Well put it this way, when you’re handling 80,000 people in town, let me tell you this we had a hard time handling that many people and I don’t know if we could grow any larger but we’ll certainly attempt to in the next 50 years.”
Next year’s festival will be March 25, 2015 and Jessop said, as always, they’re hoping for good weather.