Museum evokes sweet memories with maple festival

ELIZABETHTOWN Its been about 30 years since Elizabethtown hosted a maple sugar festival, but the memories remain enough to want to celebrate the events 50th anniversary. The Adirondack History Center Museum is hosting a 50th anniversary celebration of the Maple Sugar Festival on Saturday, April 14 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Members of the organizational committee gathered last Friday to discuss the festival, appropriately sampling fresh waffles drenched in the sweet syrup. Bernard Duso, a boiler who has operated the sugarhouse during Field, Forest and Stream Day, recalled the earlier festivals with fondness. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the streets of Elizabethtown were lined with maple trees which were tapped. Some of the festivals involved rides. One of the highlights was a visit from Aunt Jemima during the 1960 festival. Duso said the event died down in the 70s, since there was no one to operate the sugarhouse. Duso plans on giving a boiling demonstration at this years festival. This used to be an incredible event. It was a whole weekend. There was dinner, dancing, they had a maple sugar queen, a talent contest, said committee member Elizabeth Lawrence. Committee member Noel Merrihew said the day is a chance to revisit the identity of the community, and the Adirondacks role in maple syrup production. It's not just Vermont maple syrup, or Canadian maple syrup some of the best producers in the world are here, said Merrihew. The event kicks-off with a pancake breakfast prepared by the Elizabethtown Kiwanis and Elizabethtown Fire Department at 11 a.m., which will continue until all are served. The cost will be $6 adults, $5 seniors and children 6-12 and $1 for children under six. At noon, a pancake eating contest will be held. People are asked to bring their best maple-desserts for a recipe contest, in the past a popular activity. Judging for the maple dessert contest will take place at 1 p.m. Another tradition, the beard growing contest, will take place at the events. Men will be judged on their beards in a wide variety of categories, with results announced at at 2:30 p.m. The day will also contain games, music and vendors of maple-related products. Horse-drawn wagon rides will take place from 1-3 p.m. The festival celebrates the culture of maple sugaring. Northern Maple Specialist and Director Mike Farrell from the Uihlein Forest Maple Sugar Field Station in Lake Placid will offer a presentation. A maple sugar exhibit by Essex Town Historian Shirley LaForest and Cory Gillilland will be on display. Author Melba Wrisley will perform a reading from Growing Up Strong about the museums first maple sugar festival at 12:30 p.m. A slide show of the 1957 Maple Sugar Festival will be shown throughout the day. Lawrence said that the slide-show is numbered, and people will be asked to help identify people in the pictures. Lawrence said the event is a continuation of the museums activities in preparation for the Quadricentennial of Champlains exploration of the region. The museum has held celebrations of its 50th anniversary and the Colonial Gardens 50th anniversary. (The Quadricentennial) is going to be a big deal, so were getting our feet wet and building up to 2009, said Lawrence. Museum director Margaret Gibbs agreed, adding that the maple sugar festival is a kick off and will hopefully take place annually for the next few years. For more information, go online to www.adkhistorycenter.org or call 873-6466. Maple Dessert Contest To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Maple Sugar Festival, the Essex County Historical Society is hosting a Maple Dessert Contest. This contest will be judged by a committee of local residents experienced in the preparation and appreciation of fine foods. Any and all desserts are welcome: pastries, cakes, puddings, cookies, pies and more. The only requirement is that real maple syrup, preferably Adirondack syrup, be used in the creation of the dessert. There will be three categories of entrant, with a limit of one entry per person. Categories are: child up to age 12, youth age 12 to age 18, and adult age 18 and over. People should bring their desserts to the Maple Sugar Festival by noon on Saturday, April 14. Entries need to be protected from the elements and enclosed either in a cooler or other such secure container. To prevent any undue social or political influence, entries will be judged by an assigned number. Winners will receive a certificate and the grand prize winners dessert will be featured at the Deers Head Inn in Elizabethtown the following week.

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