Last Saturday should have seen tens of thousands of people in the downtown core for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. Instead, as with last year, the in-person event was a no-go due to the pandemic.
Unlike last year, however, the festival will be represented virtually this time around, with online activities slated for April 9 and 10.
On tap are virtual sugar bush tours, an online maple taffy demonstration, a virtual mall and some cooking demos featuring Giovanni & Chef D, among other family-friendly offerings.
While all of the in-person events are on hold, including the toy show and sale, organizers are continuing with the annual collectible, this year a red 1958 Plymouth Fury in the 1:43 scale, decaled with the festival logo.
To further enhance the feel of the traditional festival day, the EMSF committee put together some pancake boxes containing pancake mix, local maple syrup, coffee and hot chocolate, a spatula and a festival toque, among other goodies. The 500 packages quickly sold out at $50 apiece, a sign of the strong support the festival has received for more than 50 years, says organizing committee chair Doug McLean.
“We had no idea what kind of demand we would have,” he said of the pancake boxes, which drew plenty of donations from area businesses.
“People in town have been absolutely excellent. We know that it’s a tough year … but our sponsors and supporters have really come through.”
As the virtual version of the popular festival is a first for all concerned, everyone is in uncharted waters on this one, said McLean.
“It’s definitely unknown territory.”
As with every year’s festival, proceeds from the event are destined to be distributed to a range of charitable and not-for-profit organizations. Forty per cent of the profits are allocated for Elmira District Community Living, with other groups sharing in the rest.
Even with the last-minute cancellation of the 2020 festival, many of the sponsors who’d already contributed allowed the committee to keep the money, providing for some $35,000 to be distributed to 18 organizations. That was down from $65,000 the year before, but still a sizable accomplishment under the circumstances.
“We don’t know what to expect this year, but we hope to do something,” said McLean, adding organizers are looking forward to a return to the in-person festival next year, though some of the online aspects may be retained to reach a larger audience.