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Maple Syrup Festival Drips Sweet Success for Elmvale Sugar-maker

By: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com

April 26, 2024 – Tim Lalonde was destined to become a sugar-maker.

His father was one and the sugar bush just south of Elmvale where he’s lived since birth has a rich history of producing quality maple syrup since 1858.

“We got involved in 1958, when my dad bought the land,” says Lalonde while busying himself filling various sized mason jars with freshly made maple butter — better described as maple spread, since there’s no dairy component.

Together with his wife Peggy, the Lalondes will be front and centre at Saturday’s 56th annual Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival. Regulars at the festival since it started, the Lalondes will be offering everything maple — syrup, cotton candy, spread and candy.

“I was born here in ‘61 and I’ve done this my entire life,” says Lalonde. “Never really given it much thought. It’s a living.”

A sweet living, some would say.

Raw sap, Lalonde says, comes into the shack at about 2.5 per cent sugar content — it’s mostly water. As the sap works its way through a massive evaporator, it’s boiled down and reduced to its final sugary state.

Lalonde says he makes about 1,100 gallons (4,200 litres) of syrup a year.

“It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup,” he says. “So, on average, we collect about 45,000 gallons of sap each season.”

Folks who attend the festival will have the chance to check out Lalonde’s sugar shack for themselves — event organizers will be providing buses to and from Lalonde’s farm throughout the festival.

While Lalonde’s sugar shack is a must-see attraction, the legions of visitors who are expected to attend the festival can spend the day enjoying a wide variety of activities, including an all-day pancake breakfast, live musical entertainment, a log-sawing competition and a pancake-eating challenge.

Visitors can also spend their time wandering around, checking out the offerings from about 200 different vendors who will be on hand selling a variety of items, from handmade toys and clothing to wooden sculptures and jewelry.

“Each year, the Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival brings people from near and far to experience our community, enjoy the entertainment, shop for unique gifts and taste maple sweetness, from syrup to cotton candy,” says Springwater Mayor Jennifer Coughlin. “Events like this provide a glimpse of what life in Springwater is like.”

According to Matt Garwood, the township’s Ward 1 councillor who represents the Elmvale area, the festival is much more than a celebration of spring and the community’s unofficial homecoming event. It’s also a major fundraiser for the community.

“Funds raised are directly invested back into the community through local schools, groups, and other projects where financial support is needed,” he says.

A regular at the festival, Garwood says it’s a tradition to bundle up and brave the weather, visit Miss Amber Maple, stock up on locally made maple syrup and reconnect with friends.

“Growing up in Elmvale, the festival signalled the beginning of spring while celebrating the maple syrup producers and local creators,” Garwood says. “From the pancake house at the community hall to the sugar bush tour at Lalonde’s just outside of town, there truly is something for everyone.”

Coughlin agreed and says the festival’s success is a direct result of committed volunteers.

“Springwater is a community of communities, with strong agricultural roots and passionate residents who continue to get involved and volunteer their time to make events like this possible for everyone to enjoy,” she says.

The 56th annual Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival will be held in various locations around Elmvale on Saturday, April 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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