After being sidelined by COVID for three years, Powassan’s Maple Syrup Festival makes a comeback this April 29th. One of the returning events is the Great Canadian Lumberjack show which features a number of events like chainsaw carving and axe growing competitions. Municipality of Powassan photo isaacpaulphoto

“Excitement and anticipation”.

That’s how Kim Bester, the Municipality of Powassan’s deputy clerk, describes the reaction from local residents on the return of the Maple Syrup Festival.

Normally the festival takes place the fourth Saturday in April, but this year it’s occurring on Saturday, April 29th. This would have been the 25th anniversary for the festival but it’s being celebrated as the 22nd anniversary after the popular event was cancelled for three straight years because of COVID-19.

Bester, who helps organize the event, says “there has been a lot of great feedback” on the festival’s return. However, she says because it’s been on hiatus for three years, the Maple Syrup Festival committee, which she oversees as the secretary treasurer, decided the first year back would be a rebuilding year.

Bester says it means that some previous events won’t make an appearance in 2023. One of the events that won’t be seen this year is the Amateur Lumberjack show.

But one of the big draws is back and it’s the Great Canadian Lumberjack show. The event features men and women engaged in axe throwing, cross-saw and chainsaw carving competitions. The ‘lumberjacks’ will perform at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. across from the Sportsplex on Main Street.

The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and just as it has in the past, starts with the Mayors’ Breakfast at 250 Clark.

Following the traditional breakfast, the mayors are led to Main Street for the opening ceremony and that’s followed by the pancake toss, where each mayor tosses pancakes into a large basket using an over-sized skillet. The pancakes, which have maple leaves on them, are custom made for the friendly competition by Patty Fedeli, the wife of Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. Fedeli, and his federal counterpart, Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota, plan to be at the festival.

The breakfast, opening ceremony and pancake toss involves the mayors from Powassan, Nipissing, Chisholm, Callander and North Bay. Bester says once the pancake toss is done, the public can begin visiting the vendors lined up along Main Street.

There will be more than 100 vendors on site and Bester says they will have a variety of goods for sale. On top of the five area maple producers on site with maple syrup related products, vendors will have clothing, crafts, toys and jewelry. Bester knows many of the vendors because prior to COVID, they regularly were part of the annual festival.

“But this year we have 40 vendors I’ve never heard of,” Bester said. “They’re heard of us and will be here for the first time.”

The inclusion of these new vendors speaks to the popularity of the festival.

Powassan has a population of 3,200 people. However, Bester says in any given year the festival has attracted 5,000 to 10,000 people with many coming to the small town from North Bay, Mattawa, Sudbury and all the nearby communities along the Almaguin Highlands corridor.

Bester says for some visitors, the festival is a homecoming because they’re back specifically for the April 29th event and visit with family, relatives and friends.

The Maple Syrup Festival was created as a result of several Powassan business merchants along Main Street looking for an event to replace Powassan’s former Winter Carnival. Bester says the first few years saw about 20 vendors and a couple of the area maple syrup producers take part and from those early beginnings the event mushroomed.

The total cost to put on the festival is about $25,000 to $30,000.

Bester says aside from the municipal portion, the sale of vendor booths, sponsorships, and government grants help spread the cost.

Although the official start of the festival is at 9 a.m., the unofficial start is 7 a.m. when pancakes start being served. From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. St. Mary’s Church offers pancake breakfasts at its Memorial Park Drive East location and St. Joseph’s Church is partnering with the local Legion Branch 453 to serve pancakes at the Legion’s 62 King Street building.

Then from 8 a.m. to noon, the Powassan Lions have their pancake breakfast at the local curling club.

Served with all the pancakes are large quantities of maple syrup made by the local producers. These are Bella Hill Maple Syrup, Matthews Maple Syrup, Long’s Maple Syrup, Sugarstone Farm-Maple Syrup and Golden Treasure Maple Syrup.

Additionally, the local Masons provide lunch as does the United Church which consists of baked beans and homemade bread.

Bella Hill Maple Syrup is also donating maple syrup to the local library which is serving up taffy on ice.

Bester says with thousands of people expected, there will also be six to eight food trucks scattered across the festival site. The festival features several local bands playing at the gazebo plus buskers coming in from North Bay with more music and a juggler. nBecause the Maple Syrup Festival is promoted as a family affair, there are plenty of activities for children. That includes The Magic of Christoph performance at 250 Clark at no charge.

From Owen Sound, Glendale Farms will be up with its pony rides, petting zoo, bouncy castle and candy truck all on King Street. nThere is a small fee for children to participate in the Glendale Farms events.

Main Street will be closed to motor vehicles during the festival. However Evan Hughes of Evan Hughes Excavating is donating his land at 118 Highway 534 as an off-site parking spot. Bester says two shuttle buses will leave this site every five to 10 minutes for 250 Clark which after disembarking is a walk of only a few minutes to Main Street. The shuttle also passes by Matthews Maple Syrup where, if they want, people can get off the bus, tour a sugar bush and then get back on the next shuttle. The festival committee will also have a couple of OPP officers and a dedicated ambulance on site in case anyone needs help.

By Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative

Original Published on Apr 18, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   North Bay Nugget   North Bay, Ontario
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