Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival
by Gary McWilliams (aka Festival Nomad)
A Great Start!
Wow! It’s a beautiful and sunny day! A little on the chilly side, -1°C, but with the sun shinny brightly, it seems much warmer! It’s Saturday morning and we are heading north and then east to Warkworth.
This is where the long running Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival takes place. For the second festival in a row (the first was the Polar Bear Festival in Campbellford), we are meeting my late brother Chuck, his wife Flo, and their friend’s Wilf and Win.
As we are driving along, I am wondering if there will be an auction for Wilf to star in! You need to read the Polar Bear Festival to understand! We will see! The plan was for us to meet Chuck and his gang in downtown Warkworth. We were to call Chuck’s cell as we got close to town. But, you know the old expression “the best laid plans”! Just outside of Warkworth we made the call. You’ve got it! They weren’t in town! They had taken the Shuttle Bus to the “Sandy Flat Sugar Bush”!
They were just about to climb on a horse drawn wagon for a trip through the Sugar Bush!
Judi and I had passed the Sugar Bush about 10 minutes before! We made a “U-turn” and headed back the way we had come! We arrived at the Sandy Flat Sugar Bush, parked our car and then took the tractor pulled hay wagon to the Sugar Bush grounds!
We climbed off the wagon, join the ticket booth line up and paid our $4 each admission fee. Now we had to find the “gang” among all the other festival visitors! Good luck to us!
The Sandy Flat Sugar Bush…
The Sugar Bush grounds were quite crowded. People were milling around everywhere. Judi went ahead to find Chuck and his group, while I took photos. I passed the long line up of people waiting for their pancake breakfast and came to the Sugar Bush’s Snack Bar/Restaurant building.
It too was very busy! In among a number of Sugar Bush buildings was an open area. It contained picnic tables and at one end a covered raised stage. On stage musicians were entertaining an appreciative audience! The musicians were Cathy Whalen and the Cruisers. I stayed to listen and took a few photos and video. Finally Judi came back. She had found everyone over by the “Taffy on Snow” line up. Apparently Chuck wanted a sample! They were through now and wanted to go and get their pancake breakfasts.
Judi decided to join them while I took the horse drawn wagon ride which ran through the sugar bush. I joined others who were lined up for the ride. Fortunately I didn’t have long to wait! There were four teams of horses and wagons available!
After we had all climbed up onto the wagon and our journey began. It’s funny when you go to these events, especially ones close to home how you meet people you know. The bush was wide open and without the leaves we could see all the blue sap lines that ran from tree to tree. Back at the finishing point we climbed off the wagon. At the wagon ride exit, a log sawing contest was taking place.
Two contestants were busy trying to saw off the end of a log! I watched for a few minutes and then headed back to the eating area. I found the group at a picnic table finishing their pancakes and sausages.
As soon as everyone had finished we decided to head back to Warkworth and the rest of the Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival. The four wanders took the Shuttle Bus and while Judi and I rode in the comfort of our car! The next stop was the Warkworth Legion and the Festival Craft Show and Sale.
Festival in Warkworth…
We left Sandy Flat and drove the winding road to Warkworth. We traveled through the downtown area and then up the hill to the Warkworth Legion. This was where the Festival Craft Show and Sale was taking place. We arrived before the Bus travelers, but decided to go in anyway.
The upstairs room of the Legion had been transformed into a Crafters Mecca. Craft demonstrators were spotted around the room, spinners, needle workers, knitters and a lone potter. Judi and I started walking around the room admiring all the wonderful displays and demonstrations. While we were watching the knitting and spinning demonstrations, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the festival organizers. She explained that they had purposely asked exhibitors to demonstrate their special skills. To me, this was a wonderful touch to the show and I hope that they will continue and expand next year!
Shortly after watching this demonstration we were joined by the weary bus travelers! We met and talked with many demonstrators and exhibitors. One was Joyce Hindle. Joyce creates beautiful fine jewelry. Judi and I stopped to chat with Joyce and to admire her work. As usual, I had to drag Judi away from this display! Judi is like a “Moth to a Flame” when it comes to jewelry!
We continued on our walk and came to Brenda Sullivan. Brenda occupied a corner of the room where she had set up her pottery demonstration area. We spent some time watching and videoing Brenda as she created a new bowl. The process was very fascinating and captured our attention for over a half hour. Brenda’s pottery can be seen on her “Dragon Clay” website. After our time watching Brenda, we continued our tour around the room. As Judi and I were about to leave, we ran into Cobourg friends, Laurence and Barb Stevenson. We talked for a few moments and then left the Show.
We had all decided to meet downtown at the Heritage Centre. This was where the Juried Art Show and Sale was being held. Judi and I drove down the hill and found a parking spot close to the Centre and crossed the street to it. The Festival’s Information booth was located next to the Centre. We stopped to talk with one of the volunteers. I asked her how she felt the festival was going and she told us that the town had been quite busy with festival visitors. Once again the bus travelers were well behind us so we decided to investigate the art show by ourselves. The show, Spirit of the Hills, featured numerous local artists and photographers. We entered the building and explored each of the works of art, painting and photographs.
Back outside the building Chuck and his group caught up to us. It was getting late in the day, do we decided to part and go our separate ways. Once again we had had a great time with them all! Even though there were a few more activities to see, the Warkworth Antique and Nostalgia Show and Sale, the Petting Zoo and the White Elephant Sale and Gingerbread Tea, we decided to return home and leave seeing those activities to another year. We had had a wonderful time at the Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival!
By the time March rolls around many of us are winter-weary and looking for that annual light called spring. The second weekend in March provides true signs of that light as we switch to daylight saving time and a very Canadian right of passage known as maple syrup time. My family and I took in the 25th annual Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival hosted by the village of Warkworth and the Sandy Flat Sugar Bush. The weather this year seemed to coincide with the transition sentiment. It was cold with a few snow flurries at times but also somewhat milder than the previous few weeks had been.
Village of Warkworth…
We began in the centre of the village where a number of different events and displays could be enjoyed. There are many stops for art lovers of all stripes. Whether it’s sketches, photography, jewelry or crafts there was a little bit of everything. As we had to budget our time somewhat we selected out stops. First was the Festival Craft Show and Sale held inside Warkworth Town Hall. In addition to the unique crafts and decorations there was a fine selection of native art. That also included a demonstration of handcrafted bird callers which certainly grabbed our attention as we searched the room looking for some stray winged wanderer. Naturally one could also pick up maple syrup, maple candy, and various flavours of fudge.
Around the corner at St. Paul’s United Church the kids can play mini golf while anyone can enjoy a light lunch. Just the sight of golf made my insides begin to thaw.
One perennial winning combination is kids and animals. Both converge downtown at the petting farm where kids of all ages can feed, pet and just enjoy a few moments with a llama, donkey, rabbits or ride a pony. My son wanted to be nice to the bunnies so they would remember him at Easter! Some kids are always thinking.
Sandy Flat Sugar Bush…
From there we boarded one of the frequent and free shuttle busses that travel the nearly 8 kilometre route to Sandy Flat Sugar Bush. As of 2011, Owners George and Alice Potter have played host to visitors for 25 years. Events include sap making demonstrations as well as nature trails, horse drawn sleigh rides, a log sawing competition and of course, pancakes and syrup. I would dare say no one comes away hungry as they are extremely generous with the servings. Picture two or three large piping hot pancakes, swimming in fresh syrup with a side of sausages to boot. Savour it while being entertained by the clogging and square dancing demonstrations on the outdoor stage from the Potter Band, Percy Swingers and more. Or, you can warm up inside where several very efficient volunteers kept the tables clean plus soak in the rustic charm with many historic displays along the walls.
One scrumptious snack we like there is syrup on a stick. They pour the syrup on a surface of slush, then you roll it onto a popsicle stick for a sweet and sticky taffy treat.
We capped the visit with a horse drawn sleigh ride through the bush where we also saw the long, intertwining lines amongst the trees that transport the sap for processing. Since they still had a fresh layer of snow the scenery was quite picturesque and the jingling bells on the horses reminded me of a song from another season.
While the weekend may be over very fast, visitors help provide ongoing benefit to the area since proceeds from the event aid the Warkworth Community Service Club and its endeavours. It truly is a tangible way to experience how a community can bond with its residents and many guests who come to share a celebration of spring.