By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
With spring getting closer every day, it’s time for one of Durham Region’s most longstanding traditions.
Now, the 43rd annual Maple Syrup Festival at Purple Woods Conservation Area is well underway, and recently, local students got the first taste of this year’s maple syrup batch before the festival opened to the public.
Patricia Lowe, director of stewardship, education, and communications for the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) says they are once again expecting 10,000 people to attend the festival this year.
Planning for the event began well before the new year started.
“There are three to four months of prepping for the festival,” Lowe says, noting that CLOCA received approximately 600 resumes for 20 positions required for the event.
In all, 75 volunteers will assist in seeing that the festival runs smoothly over the next month.
Purple Woods has a long history of maple syrup production.
“It’s pretty unique, the forest would be about 150 years old,” Lowe explains. “When the Oak Ridges Moraine was settled, they cleared a lot of it, but they always kept some forests for firewood and maple syrup.”
“So this is one of those remnant forests, and there’s not a lot of them this size,” she adds.
CLOCA currently has approximately 1,300 trees tapped in Purple Woods, producing 1,000 litres of maple syrup every year.
This year’s season began the first weekend of March.
“We’ve had a good start this week. We’ve produced about 160 litres so far,” Lowe said on March 8 while at the conservation area preparing for the busy weekend.
The festival aims to showcase 400 years of maple syrup history in Ontario through interactive displays and tours.
Lowe says according to legend, the wife of an Iroquois man named Chief Woksis discovered maple syrup.
Woksis had been throwing his tomahawk at a nearby tree. After he removed it and went off on a hunt, his wife gathered a bucket filled with what she thought was water from the tree.
She used the liquid in the bucket in preparation for that evening’s dinner and when her family noticed a distinct taste to the food, maple syrup was discovered.
The festival features activities such as games and crafts, and horse-drawn wagon rides.
There will plenty of treats to satisfy any sweet tooth including pancakes covered in 100 per cent maple syrup and maple taffy. Lowe says it truly is a family-friendly event.
“It’s almost like coming to a traditional family farm,” she notes.
With the festival now in its fourth decade, it has become a multi-generational attraction, with those who attended as children years ago now bringing their children or even grandchildren.
General admission tickets for the Maple Syrup Festival are available online at cloca.com or at the administration office, at 100 Whiting Avenue in Oshawa for $5.
A limited number of tickets will also be available at Purple Woods Conservation Area, located at 38 Coates Road, north of Oshawa, for $6 [by debit or credit card only].
Lowe advises that visitors buy their tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
The festival runs March 14 to 18, March 24 and 25, and April 7 and 8.
For more information, visit cloca.com.