News Local

Maple Syrup festival returns

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Maple taffy is set to be served up at the Maple Syrup Festival in Alvinston. The annual event returns March 17 and 18. (File photo)

Maple taffy is set to be served up at the Maple Syrup Festival in Alvinston. The annual event returns March 17 and 18. (File photo)

 Legend has it that the discovery of maple syrup came after a few First Nations boys who were out in the woods throwing their Tomahawks headed back to camp not realizing they had left one of the Tomahawks wedged into the tree.


Later that day, a young maiden was heading to the river to get water for supper, but she grew tired and took a rest beneath the tree, placing her bucket down beside her.


When she woke, her bucket was full of what she thought was water, and returned to camp with her findings. That evening they roasted bear meat in this new magical water, which was actually sap.


They raved that this was the best meat they’d ever tasted, and wanted to know where this magical water came from. She brought them back to the tree, the source of the sap that was so tasty.


Sharon Nethercott, conservation education coordinator, said this is just one of several legends on how maple syrup was discovered in North America.


She said it’s very possible the discovery was made after First Nations people observed animals, like the red squirrel, which is known to tap sugar maples.


“They bite a mark with their teeth, always on the south side of the tree which is the warmer side,” she said.


The sap will then leak out onto the bark, and the sun will evaporate the thin layer. Nethercott said scientists have measured this with a refractometer to find sugar content, which should be close to 66 per cent sugar.


“The squirrels were coming back and eating that sugar, licking it off of the bark,” she said.


Nethercott said the season for maple syrup production is very weather dependent, sometimes beginning in early February or late March, lasting anywhere from two to eight weeks.


“You need to have cold frosty nights followed by bright sunshiny days,” she said. “That creates the pressure in the trees for the sap to flow.”


Once nights begin to warm up, the pressure in the trees change and the sap doesn’t drip as readily. Once buds on the trees open up, the season is finished.


The Maple Syrup Festival at the A.W Campbell Conservation Area has been celebrating this favourite Canadian treat since the 1970s. The weekend will see educational presentations interpret the First Nations and Pioneer methods in extracting maple syrup, have hands on displays and let children try out drilling for the liquid gold themselves. For the second year now, there will be horse draw wagon rides, and guests are encouraged to explore the trails nearby.


They also serve up maple taffy twice a day, cooking it on a stove. Nethercott this is perhaps the most popular part of the day.


Nethercott said last year saw around 700 guests visit the demonstration site from across the globe. She said the specific climate in the north eastern part of the continent where the trees grow allow for the phenomenon, something that not everyone gets to see in their lifetime.


“It’s exciting because there’s often families that are housing international students and they make a point of coming to the festival,” she said. “We’ve had people from all around the world come.”



When: March 17 – 18 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: A.W Campbell Conservation Area, Brooke-Alvinston

Cost: $5 per car


The Alvinston Firemen’s Association will be hosting their annual pancake and sausage meal at the Alvinston Community Centre.