According to festival organizer Carol Mandracchia, the weekend celebration attracts visitors from California to South Carolina, and countries overseas. While in recent years the festival has seen a small decline in visitors, Mandracchia says attendance has been stable, and has begun to grow again. Mandracchia has been involved with organizing the maple festival since its inception and says it provides those who look at Vermont as a travel destination with a small-town Vermont experience.
“The itinerary has changed only a little since the beginning, but it has always had the same premise of highlighting sugar making, as well as providing a destination for those wanting the small-town Vermont experience. It highlights community life and life in a small town as well as the areas around us.”
While Saturday and Sunday differ in scheduling, there will be an information booth open at 8 am each day for those in need of planning and directions. Both days will feature breakfast at the Whitingham Municipal Center, and lunch at Twin Valley Middle School. Saturday hosts a maple recipe contest, a “Kids Korner” hosted by WINGS featuring children’s activities for all ages, and a craft fair with over 35 vendors at TVMS as well. Saturday will also feature a sugar-on-snow ham dinner at 5 pm at the Municipal Center.
Local shops will be open during the entire festival, and both days feature sugarhouse tours and sleigh rides as well. The sugarhouse tours feature seven farms in town that all collect their own sap to produce maple syrup.
The largest of the sugarhouses giving a demonstration is at the Corse Farm, on Corse Road. The Corse Farm has been family-owned since 1868 and has the most extensive sugaring operation in town. According to farm owner Roy Corse, the operation produces 2,000-3,000 gallons of syrup each year, using 11,000 taps, a 6-by-20-foot evaporator, and an economizer that cuts down on boil time by filtering out water under 400 pounds of pressure over special filters. Corse says that during past festivals as many as 600 people (mostly out-of-towners) have visited his sugarhouse.
While Corse says the process indoors is only a small part of making syrup. He is happy people get to see that syrup doesn’t just drip out of trees. “So many tourists come to Vermont and have to take some (maple syrup) back, but they know nothing about it,” said Corse. “It always seems so strange to me, because they don’t understand why or how it’s done or where it comes from. I think its great for the maple industry for a few people in the world to know how it’s made.”