Pancakes, Taffy and Turkey Drumsticks
According to The
Guinness Book Of World Records, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is
the World’s Largest One Day Maple Syrup Festival, attracting
80,000 people, mainly from the Toronto, London (Ontario) and Kitchener-Waterloo
Over 2,000 volunteers
make this festival the success that it’s become after 40 years
(since 1965), raising over $1,000,000 for various local charities
in the process.
And the grittles
get going at 7am to feed the constant influx of visitors, who consume
500,000 pancakes made from 880 kgs of pancake mix (using a secret
festival recipe) and 725 litres of Waterloo Region’s finest
wonder why the Canadians seem to worship everything ‘maple’.
And here’s why.
accounts for 80% of the world’s maple syrup production.
So they flaunt
the maple leaf …
- The brilliant
red and white Canadian flag features a huge maple leaf in its centre.
- And the ice-hockey
team representing Toronto, the largest city in Canada (4.6 million
pop’n) is called the Maple Leafs.
sister, was visiting from April 2-4. So she was pleased to accompany
us to this April 3 event. At about 10am we picked up Nancy, a gift
shop proprietor and Kit’s friend, and made our way to Elmira,
a small town about 40 kms. north of Kitchener.
It was a warm,
sunny day, and we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic just half
way into our journey. Maybe we should’ve left at 6.30am and
enjoyed the first pancakes off the grittle for breakfast!
As we got closer,
we passed dozens of black Mennonite buggies, set up as roadside stalls,
selling maple syrup for $34 per 4 ltrs. I guess this was very good
value because they seemed to be doing a roaring trade.
the way, are a horse-and-buggy community. They shun modern ways of
life such as cars, TVs, telephones, etc. The men all wear black jackets,
black ‘Abraham Lincoln’ hats and black (or navy) trousers.
And the Mennonite women wear long skirts, black tops and white lace
bonnets. And they all wear black boots.
They are a very
well-respected part of the community, and the Mennonite children walk
about quite happily in groups. On one occasion, we saw a rather amusing
sight. Four Mennonite girls roller-blading along a bicycle track.
being rounded up in hay wagons.
Just before we
reached the festival, we saw our first hay wagon. Large red metal
cages being pulled by shiny tractors, and herding people from the
parking lots to the festival. And there were dozens of them. People
climbed up a 4 step platform to get into them, then they stood inside
the trailer, looking out through the metal bars, just like sheep being
taken to the slaughter house.
Luckily, we had
no trouble parking, and soon we were squeezing our way through the
masses at the festival.
The first thing
that caught my eye was the turkey drumsticks. Four guys were standing
on the sidewalk eating them out of aluminium foil wrappers. They were
gigantic! I nearly tripped over someone because I couldn’t take
my eyes off them. Sure enough, I had to have one. So I paid the $5,
which was excellent value, and made sure I didn’t drop it on
my toe, because it could’ve done untold damage!
A little further
along was the maple taffy (toffee) stall. For 50 cents you could get
some maple taffy made just like I’d seen at the Sugaring-Off
Exhibition in Quebec. Maple syrup was being boiled in iron caldrons
hung by thick metal chains over open-wood fires. Ten gallons of syrup
would be made into toffee on this day. And after getting taffy to
the right, sticky consistency, it was ladled over a bed of snow (actually,
shaved ice) and twisted onto popsicle sticks. I couldn’t resist
the temptation, so I bought 2, and they were pleasantly sweet and
Pancake Tent was being well promoted for this event, so we soon found
ourselves in a very long queue, lining up to buy our pancake meal
tickets. A double pancake (smothered in syrup) and a coffee was great
value at $4. To get it, we had to walk through a production line,
being served our plates, pancakes, syrup and coffee as we walked by
each one. And the end of the production line took us straight into
a large white marquee with tables and seats for 250 pancake eaters.
As you can imagine, by this time we were pretty full. So we avoided
all other food stalls, and began browsing the hundreds of other stalls
at the festival.
One stall which
caught my attention sold lots of emu products. Mostly oils and lotions.
But these products were displayed on an emu skin. I could tell it
was from an emu leg because the section draped neatly over the edge
of the counter clearly featured 3 emu toes.
have an Australian sense of humour!
many Australian products in Canada, but even so, I was surprised to
see didgeridoos being sold at another festival stall. They were 1.2m
(4 ft) long and 6cm (3 inches) in diameter, and they were very well
decorated with carvings and bright ‘dot’ paintings. But
on closer inspection I noticed they were made from bamboo. A small
sticker made sense of it all, ‘Made in Indonesia’. But
at $30 it was an irresistible purchase for Kit.
The Zion Mennonite
Fellowship was providing rest and entertainment in the ‘Resting
Place’. So we ducked in for a short while to take a break and
listen to the Mennonite band singing rock hymns.
We thought we’d
end the day with the Countryside Heritage Tour. This tour would take
us through genuine Mennonite property so we could get some first-hand
experience of where and how these people lived. But the tours were
being run hourly. The next one was booked out, and the following one
only had 3 seats left. Waiting for more than 2 hours was too long
a wait for these 4 tired visitors, so at about 2pm, we squeezed through
the crowds once again and dodged the hay wagons on our way back to
the car, and home.
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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