No foolin' — Vergas to celebrate Maple Syrup Fest this Saturday
Held annually since April 1, 2000 (with the exception of 2020), the Vergas Maple Syrup Festival will celebrate its anniversary this Saturday.
VERGAS — No, it's not an April Fool's prank: Vergas is celebrating its annual Maple Syrup Festival this Saturday, April 1.
It will mark exactly 23 years since the first festival was held on April 1, 2000 — though this will be the 22nd annual event, as there was no festival in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's kind of gotten to be a well-oiled machine," says Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn of preparations for the festival, which is co-sponsored by the Vergas Community Club and Vergas Lions.
Between the two clubs, there are about 50 volunteers involved, she added. Bruhn is co-chairing this year's event, as a member of the Vergas Community Club; her co-chair, Janelle Lotzer, is with the Lions, and between the two of them, they keep the schedule running "really slick."
It's a pretty major undertaking, Bruhn noted — especially the pancake feed, which typically serves between 600-700 hungry area residents each year. The 2022 event drew upward of 900 people.
"We go through 20 gallons of maple syrup," she said, adding that their local supplier, Jerry Jacobson of Jake's Syrups, makes sure they have plenty on hand for the event. "People really do enjoy that fresh maple syrup."
While there are no longer any pandemic restrictions limiting their on-site seating, organizers have decided to continue offering a to-go option for the pancake feed, because "there were people who really liked it," Bruhn said. "So we thought, why not?"
But for those who prefer socializing with other attendees at the Event Center, there is no need to worry about a long wait in line, or finding a seat. "We keep things moving pretty quickly," she said. Serving will continue from 8 to 11 a.m.
Aside from the pancake feed, the festival includes a race with the tongue-in-cheek name, the Saps Running 5K. Participants can complete the course by running, or walking — but there are awards given to those who do it with the fastest time, in three different race categories: Men, women and youth. Registration will take place between 8-8:30 a.m. at Billy's Corner Bar, with the race getting underway promptly at 10 a.m.
"It's all on asphalt," Bruhn said of the race, so there shouldn't be any worries about being able to complete the course.
And for those who enjoy a slightly more relaxed activity, Farm 41 will once again be offering free horse-drawn wagon rides from 9 a.m. to noon. The rides will begin and end at the Methodist church, which is on the same block as the Event Center, Bruhn noted.
There is also a Maple Leaf Hunt for kids aged six years and under, which is usually held on the Long Lake Trail — but just like last year, the 2023 event will most likely be held down by the Vergas Loon, because "the Long Lake Trail is still pretty full of snow," Bruhn said. The hunt starts at 10 a.m.
Local businesses will also be offering Maple Fest-related specials throughout the day, Bruhn said, from maple-flavored treats and drinks to product discounts. "We encourage people to check out our downtown," she said.
Maplewood to host syrup-making demonstrations
After taking in all the activities Vergas has to offer, Maple Fest attendees may want to head on over to nearby Maplewood State Park, which will once again be offering its Maple Syrup Demonstration Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hosted by the Friends of Maplewood, the demonstrations will be held in and around the park's Sugar Shack. The Friends of Maplewood sponsored construction of the Sugar Shack, which was completed in 2017. Attendees at this event can learn all about the syrup-making process, from tapping the trees and collecting the sap, to the boiling of the sap into pure maple syrup.
There is no cost to attend Demonstration Day activities, but vehicles entering the park must have a valid Minnesota State Park sticker.