Get ready for some maple magic this spring, because the Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival is back. On April 1 and 2 of 2023, the quaint but mighty town of Sunderland is gearing up to welcome families, friends and visitors for an exciting weekend that celebrates all things maple. Come out and enjoy the activities, entertainment, tours and artisan goods that this wonderfully rural community in Durham Region has to offer.
The maple syrup festival is quite important to this warm-hearted community. For maple syrup producers in the area, approximately 60 percent of their syrup production is sold at this one event. It is an important celebration to the town because it brings in business and awareness to the area, and it is a significant fundraising event for the not-for-profit organizations in Sunderland. “The Sunderland Lions Club do peameal on a bun,” Donna says, “and the volunteer firefighters of the Sunderland Fire Station do hotdogs and hamburgers. Both the Sunderland Legion and the Freemasons do a pancake breakfast which will be done takeout-style, and picnic tables will be set up beneath tents. The weather has been good for the last five years, and we are expecting really nice weather this year, too. But it is April, so you never know.”
This year’s festival will be held entirely outdoors, and will host approximately 50 vendors along River Street in the downtown core. A number of great events and experiences have been lined up (with the possibility of more to come). The popular horse and wagon rides will be running out of the local arena, and will take guests around the picturesque town. Harlaine Maple Products will once again be conducting sugarbush tours on their farm, and busses have been organized to take guests out to see not only how this quintessentially Canadian treat is made today, but how it was made in the past as well. There will also be a historical bus tour through the town of Blackwater that is hosted by the Sunderland Historical Society.
You can look forward to traditional events like the pizza eating contests and bathtub races, and a tractor pull will be held. “They’re lawn tractors souped up,” Donna laughs. “And the bathtub races are something to see. They’re bathtubs on wheels that groups enter into the contest and push. There is even a contest to win ‘best dressed’ bathtub!”
There are musical performances that will delight visitors on both days. A stage will be set up in the Pharmacy Parking Lot for a lineup of musicians including Jake Perry, the Carl Rundown Band and The Twangsters. For the kids, Lexy the Rap Dad will be making an appearance twice a day.
“This is a family event, and Lexy the Rap Dad is very popular with young families,” Donna says. “The way we’re setting the festival up is to give people enough space to distance themselves and feel safe. This is a huge priority for us. People are going to want to get out and do things they’ll feel they can trust with their safety. So, we’ll follow whatever requirements and mandates are still in place for the festival to make sure that we can give them that. There are no guarantees, of course, but we’re doing everything we can.”
With 26 years of great festival memories, the Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival is now into its second and third generation of attendees, as children grow up and have their own children, and want to pass their beloved experiences along. The festival typically sees 6,000 participants each year—3,000 each day. When the festival was cancelled in 2020, the organizers were expecting those numbers to climb as they focused a lot of their energy in advertising to the surrounding areas. And even though it has been two years since the last festival, Donna and her team are still expecting to welcome large crowds who are hungry for wholesome, outdoor activity.
“It’s a fun festival, and a great time to get out with the family and do something,” she says. “At this point in time, people are looking for reasons to get out and about, so the fact that we’re hosting the festival outdoors, people will feel good about that.”
We at York Durham Headwaters are sure they will also feel good about supporting such a wonderful event and community, and will be back in 2024 and beyond for more maple memories!
To find out more, visit www.maplesyrupfestival.ca/sunderland. The Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival is being held on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2.