The 16th Annual Egremont Optimists’ Maplefest attracted thousands to the Holstein area sugarbush of host Rayburn Love. The April 10-11 event, which kept six farm wagons busy transporting visitors back and forth from the bush, was a long way from the inaugural event, recalls Love.
“That first year, we had about 500 people. We didn’t have all the demonstrations we have now. We pretty much did it in a tent in a field.”
While it’s difficult to put exact numbers on the crowds, as elementary school age children aren’t charged admission, the Optimists estimate about 7,000 visitors enjoyed this year’s festival. Love figures most of those in attendance come from a 100-mile radius around Holstein, from Owen Sound down to the Guelph/KW area.
While funds from Maplefest support the Optimists’ community service work, Love says the event isn’t about making money.
“We really do it for the kids. That’s why we have all the demonstrations and activities.”
In fact, the club bills Maplefest as “The Best in Edutainment” as visitors have a chance to watch the syrup-making process from spile to sale in a 40-acre working sugarbush.
No maple syrup festival would be complete without a traditional breakfast, and the Holstein event features a massive one with visitors streaming through a covered pavilion and filling up outdoor picnic tables to enjoy pancakes and sausages with genuine maple syrup. Demonstrations of other traditional crafts, such as blacksmithing, wood carving and candle-making make the event educational, as well as fun. Special events included shows by the Fergus Highland War of 1912 re-enactors and the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.
With such a sweet formula for success, are organizers planning any major changes to future events?
“We’re going to continue and hopefully add more demonstrations and a few more activities for the kids,” said Love.