Maple Syrup Festival to sweeten long weekend

The sweet stuff will be flowing this weekend at the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival.

The sweet stuff will be flowing this weekend at the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival.

The fun, two-day, family friendly event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre will include maple syrup making demonstrations, tastings and contests, live entertainment, rides on the Green Hornet train, a maple syrup marketplace and kids crafts.

“It’s kind of neat, last year was the best year we’ve had,” said BC Forest Discovery Centre general manager Chris Gale, who noted that festival attendance in 2015 was up about 35 per cent from 2014.

As the centre approaches its 50th anniversary in June, Gale said he’s excited about what the festival will bring. Gale said he is expecting around 2,000 attendees for this year’s weekend festival which will include 14 vendors and a maple syrup contest judged by a three-person panel of maple syrup connoisseurs.

“It takes 43 litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup, that’s why it’s a big deal. They all do it for a hobby, but they do a really good job,” Gale said, adding that vendors will be coming from as far away as Vancouver and Cortes Island.

Elementary school students will get a head start on the sap with programs running Feb. 3-5, including around 950 French immersion students expected on Wednesday and Thursday.

“What they’ve done in past years is they’ve been going to the arena and doing it all indoors. They have a guy from Quebec coming and doing, you know, a program with a movie and stuff,” Gale explained of the K to 12 French immersion students from Cowichan Valley School District 79. “When I heard about that I gave them a call and said ‘why don’t you come here and do it outside and we’ll show you how to tap trees?’”

In addition to having the “Maple Man” from Quebec on-scene to tell them all about maple syrup, the immersion students will also have their usual scavenger hunt on the centre’s grounds with the added bonus of being able to ride the train.

“It’s kind of neat, and having over 950 kids for two days is really fun,” Gale said, adding centre staff will be doing tapping demos as well as making lots of popcorn and hot chocolate for the syrup-enthusiasts.

“Nine hundred bags of popcorn, it’s going to be everywhere,” Gale said with a laugh.

The Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival opens to the public Feb. 6 and 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission prices are $10 for adults, students and youths 13-18, $8 for children three-12 and free for children under two. Admission is free for all 2016 BC Forest Discovery Centre members.

Gale also reminded the public that the centre will be open for family fun on Monday, Feb. 8 for Family Day. The train will be running and all buildings will be open, with an admission price of $5 for everyone to the centre and its 100-acre grounds.

For more information visit www.forest discoverycentre.com or call 250-715-1113.