Vergas Maple Syrup Festival was a sweet success
Upwards of 900 people turned out for this year's festival.
DETROIT LAKES — Claude Strauch of Dent poured pure maple syrup on his flapjacks and dug in his fork. He chewed a bit, and then recalled that he first attended the Vergas Maple Syrup Festival in the 1940s.
His wife, Mary Ann Strauch, raised her eyebrows at that, and suggested he pick another year.
“Maybe 1975?” he guessed again. “It doesn't matter. We love it, and we love supporting the Vergas community.”
The Strauchs were among the 900 people or so who packed the Vergas Event Center this past Saturday, April 9 for the community's 2022 Maple Syrup Festival.
Andy Peterson, one of several founders of the event, was also there on Saturday. He couldn't recall exactly when the festival started, either, but believed it began around 1970. He remembered that he and Dave Puetz, of rural Vergas, visited with a few others about the idea all those years ago, and a committee was formed — some of whom were local syrup producers.
Peterson, reflecting back on the comparatively lighter turnout at the first few Maple Syrup Festivals, noted, “When we started, there wasn’t a turnout like this. I guess people like it.”
The syrup for this year's festival was provided by Puetz Maple Syrup and Jake’s Syrup. The rural Vergas producers average a donation of 10-12 gallons per year.
“But we bring around 15 gallons, to have that available in case they go crazy,” Jacobson said.
Visitors with more refined palates may have tasted subtle differences in the syrups. Jacobson said he provided a lighter amber syrup, while Puetz brought in a darker amber.
“The difference is, the darker one has a stronger flavor, whereas the lighter syrup has a more delicate taste,” Jacobson said, adding that unless connoisseurs are tasting each flavor side-by-side, the subtle differences may be hard to detect.
Regardless of which sweet syrup was being served, the event was a hit this year. With upwards of 900 visitors, Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn guessed it was a mix of the day's nice spring weather and cabin fever that drew people to town.
Luckily, the event's volunteer roster was easy to fill.
“I’m guessing there are 30 volunteers,” Bruhn said, adding that some were from the Vergas Lions, others from the Vergas Community Club, and a few more were from the general Vergas community.
One volunteer, Vergas Lion Doug Safar, said he'd been flipping flapjacks at Maple Syrup Festivals for the past seven years.
“I’d say we serve a couple thousand pancakes,” he said. “We have expert cake flippers, but I’m just a fill in.”
The pancake meal also comes with boiled sausage from the Perham Meat Market. Vergas Lion Henry Ditterich said the club bought 250 pounds of breakfast sausage for this year's event, and he felt there was a strong chance they would sell it all.
In addition to the in-person breakfast service, there was also a drive-thru option this year.
Vergas Lion Jay Norby was one of the volunteers working the drive-thru. Compared to last year, he said, they saw a substantial decline in the amount of people using the drive-thru. Even he was surprised, as he figured some would see the long line and opt for the drive-thru, but that just wasn't the case.
Normally, the line for the cakes doesn’t stretch to the sidewalk until after the conclusion of the festival's 5K, but this year the line formed early. The 5K runners worked up their appetites and then cooled off in the breakfast line.
Among the 5K runners was Nancy McDaniel. The Detroit Lakes resident said the event is her way of warming up for the upcoming bicycling season. She joined the run five years ago after moving to the area, and has kept it as an annual tradition ever since. The sweetest part about the run, she said with a smile, is the maple syrup that comes with breakfast.