Though it has a population of only 11,000 residents, the rural village of Sunderland
comes to life every spring to celebrate its annual maple syrup festival
The event began 19 years ago when a group of local citizens, including maple syrup producers, came together to celebrate the village's maple sugaring industry. It's an event which has been gaining momentum ever since.
"I was at that historic first meeting," says Lynn Campbell of the festival organizing committee. "As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I say it takes a village to put on this festival."
Nearly two decades later, the festival has grown, as more events and vendors are included in the lineup each year. In one particular year of mild weather, the festival attracted nearly 10,000 visitors.
"The Maple Festival has put Sunderland on the map," Campbell states enthusiastically. "People come from far and wide ... We encourage our visitors to check out our local stores and restaurants, and hopefully plan a return visit to our town."
The festival is important to the village's fundraising efforts for its various charitable and community projects. Campbell says, "What is unique about this festival is that it is totally organized by volunteers. Service clubs, churches, businesses and interested citizens all join together to make the fantastic two day festival weekend happen."
She adds, "For the entire 19 years the festival has been running, local stores and businesses have generously supported [it] by providing prizes and buying ads in the [Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival] programme and local newspapers."
Participants from the area who volunteer their time to the event include the Sunderland Firefighters
(who operate a hamburger and hotdog barbecue), the Sunderland Lions Club
(peameal on a bun), the Sunderland Legion and the Sunderland Masons (all day pancakes at the legion hall), and the Sunderland United Church Women (hot chili lunch at the church).
The highlight of the festival is the sugar bush tour to Harlaine Maple Products
. Here, visitors are treated to a demonstration on how maple syrup is made using a modern evaporator. A few lucky audience members may even get a taste of maple taffy made right in front of them. In town there is a cauldron set up, where Durham resident Merlyn Doble
demonstrates how sap is boiled into syrup the old-fashioned way.
"We work hard every year trying to put on a great festival emphasizing family fun," Campbell says. "It is so satisfying to see people enjoying themselves ... the kids with their balloon animals, the [parents] with their big bottle of syrup to take home, people enjoying the novelty of the horse and wagon rides."
New this year, the festival will offer historical tours organized by the Sunderland Historical Society, and is expecting retired CTFO-TV meteorologist and reporter Dave Devall to make an appearance at the opening ceremonies and to sign autographs.
"Every year there is something different," says Lynn Campbell. "We have people of all ages come to the festival ... The best advertising is word of mouth and a lot of families come back year after year ... Everyone is warmly welcomed to our little town for the big weekend."
The Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival
will be held March 29th and 30th, and is free of charge to all visitors.