Maple good weekend

Margaret Timmins, of Burlington, has a little taste of maple syrup in Taylor Park during the 49th annual Vermont Maple Festival.

ST. ALBANS — For the second year in a row, the famed and favored Vermont Maple Festival has been cancelled by organizers.

A three-day event held annually in downtown St. Albans, the Vermont Maple Festival celebrates maple syrup, the first agricultural crop of the year. The festival typically includes food demonstrations, live entertainment, a parade and an antique show. It draws thousands of visitors from across Vermont and New England.

This year’s festival was to be held April 23-25, but will not take place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Cecile Branon, a co-chair of the festival who has been involved for over 25 years, said though the festival has been cancelled, the committee is dedicated to making sure some of the events and traditions live on.

“It won’t be completely dead,” Branon said. “Hopefully we can bring some of it to life.”

Organizers plan to put twists on several festival traditions, with the hope of still bringing people downtown in a safe and fun way. Though the Sap Run will most likely not take place, several community contests are in the works, including photo, art and downtown window-decorating contests.

Branon also hopes St. Albans restaurants might participate by creating maple-inspired specials for takeout. The committee would like to package maple-flavored cotton candy and donuts for pick-up as well.

The year 2020 was strong for maple in Vermont. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the state produced 2.2 million gallons of maple syrup — more than 50% of all syrup produced in the U.S. last year.

But even so, the Vermont Maple Festival is a showcase and money-maker for Vermont’s maple producers. Without it this year, these businesses lose an opportunity to share their work.

“This is the most important event for the Vermont maple industry,” said Branon, who is also co-owner of Branon Family Maple Orchards in Fairfield. “It’s the largest promotion of maple in the state.”

Not only does the festival bring income for maple producers and joy and excitement to Vermont’s cold and wet mud season, but it also supplies business and economic growth to downtown St. Albans.

Chip Sawyer, St. Albans City director of planning and development, said being without the festival for two years will be hard for the downtown.

“St. Albans’ businesses appreciate the festival,” he said. “It brings people in the door.”

The city, Sawyer added, will do whatever it can to help get the word out about this year’s modified activities. Branon said more information should be available later this week.

“I’m looking forward to it coming back bigger and better next year,” Sawyer said.

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