Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival

An old sign shaped like maple syrup sits on the road and welcomes people to the festival.  Behind it is an inflatable dinosaur.
Nothing says welcome like the back end of a dinosaur. I think the giant Dino was some sort of of activity for the kids.
Maple syrup time is here. I love sugar. I know there are some people who do not have that gene, but it’s okay, because I have double to make up for it. And you can’t get much better than sugar that flows from trees, unless of course it’s falling from the skies ( or personally stolen from a bee or two). And lucky for me, there are others that share my enthusiasm. Wakarusa, a small town in northern Indiana, has an annual Maple Syrup Festival that spans three entire days to celebrate the sticky stuff.  
A man drives a pink tractor during a parade.
A farmer displays his unique tractor during the parade. I do think that is the first time I have ever seen a pink tractor.

I usually go to the festival every other year or so. The weather can be freezing, with scattered snowflakes or sunny and summer like, because spring in Northern Indiana is anything but predictable. Last year turned out to be gorgeously beautiful and light jacket weather, which meant that everybody and their mother came to the festival . I don’t even think the town has as many people living there as I saw that day,  so everyone must have been coming from the hills. It definitely made the day seem festive.

A mon and a young boy ride in a need like vehicle during the parade. An American flag flies off the end of the Jeep.
This classic vehicle looked like a lot of fun.

For the first time, I was there for the parade, which might of been part of the reason there were so many people there. I’m not sure what comes to mind for most when the words parade are mentioned, but in these parts it means motorcycles and tractors. Both were represented well. There was a smattering of other vehicles, such as some classic cars and an armored vehicle from the National Guard, but it really was mostly tractors and motorcycles. And of course, why not, since both are used every day (weather permitting) around here?

A table holds several rows of glass bottles of maple syrup shaped like maple leaves.
Maple syrup in some fancy jars. I never buy them this way, because you get more bang for your buck in the plastic jugs they also sell. But they are pretty and make great gifts!

After the parade everyone heads to the main road filled with vendor booths and activities. My first stop was to grab some local maple syrup. You can go to some of the nearby stores and get it for probably the same price, but somehow it tastes better when you know you are getting the genuine Festival syrup.

A mother holds the hand of her daughter during the festival. They both are wearing traditional Amish clothing, including bonnets.
A mother and daughter enjoy the festival. Wakarusa and the surrounding area feature a lot of Amish and Mennonite as part of their cultural heritage.

If you’re not familiar with these parts, it might surprise you that the majority of syrup at the festival is farmed, made and sold by Amish. So if you are a tourist, you might just want to stop by to gawk at the Amish selling their wares. I think they would be happier if you bought some, but whatever floats your boat. Buy the syrup if you can, though, because you will not regret it. It tastes wonderful. 

A boy scout holds out a box with bags of popcorn.
Free popcorn is best because it’s free, but it also tastes good. The boy scouts were so handy in handing it out.

Another yearly tradition is to sample some of the free popcorn they have during the festival. It’s hard to believe, but it really is free. Last year the local bank sponsored the kernels I ate, or at least the bag the popcorn was in, since their name was written all over it. Some nice boys scouts hand it out, and since it was not freezing out, the popcorn was still warm as well as fresh. I always expect it to be kettle corn ( a local favorite), but alas, free popcorn has its limits. Still great, though. 

A cage full of new hatched yellow  ducks sit in a shop window. There is a sign next to them that reads “just hatched Thursday”.
Nothing says spring like fuzzy yellow chicks, or ducks in this case. They are so hard to resist, except the reminder that they basically grow up into big bird.

If you want to soak in the local charm, stop by one of the stores offering demos of wood carving. Or just stop and look through windows, and you might happen to see some live chicks in the window, hatched and displayed just because they are cute and fuzzy. I mean why not?  

Visitors look on as several plastic human sized bubbles float in a wading pool with kids inside.
You feel like being a hamster gone rogue? These bubble balls were certainly popular with the younger crowd.

Something new for me was the giant bubble hamster balls you can roll in, if that sort of thing interests you. They bubbles are contained by a wading pool, so your days of reliving your favorite childhood pet dreams are a little limited. 

A man ladles chili out of a giant kettle off of the back of a food truck.
There are some things you don’t buy off the back of a truck, but this chili is definitely an exception. It looked delicious.
Veggies are mixed up on a hot grill ready to join a hot sandwich.
The grill was working full time for the Italian sausage booth.
A bag of cotton candy that I purchased and sampled.
Both maple syrup and cotton candy are delicious, so why not combine them together? It works so well!
A man spins cotton candy in a machine.  There is cotton flying everywhere.
It’s a messy business, but I wouldn’t mind doing it. These guys were trying to keep up with demand as fast as they could spin. I think he probably goes home smelling like maple sugar.

The other food won’t disappoint. There was an Italian sausage booth sponsored by the local Mennonite Church, featuring sausage, of course. Also, there was a food truck with the world’s largest kettle of chili on it that looked tempting. I opted to try something I had never heard before: Maple Cotton Candy. The regular sweet cotton is treated with some maple sugar, a possible byproduct of maple syrup, to infuse the light delicate flavor into the classic sugar taste. I tell you, they have a winner with this one. If you ever get a chance to sample it, I highly recommend it. It’s of course sweet, (obviously) but simply delicious with the maple undertone. 

A rack contains several wooden skateboards.
These hand made skate boards could easily be art hung on a wall as well. They were beautiful.
A sign reads Huff and Puff Board Co
This is a local skate board company. The area has a lot of woodworking, but as far I know they are the only ones that make skate boards.
Another favorite booth was a local woodworking shop that features skateboards that are breathtakingly beautiful. After getting over the shock of seeing something so traditionally urban in rural farm country, I instantly wanted to buy one, and then go out and break my neck trying to use it. It certainly makes me extremely jealous and want to take up a new hobby. Huff & Puff Board Co are doing something right. 

A trailer holds some extremely large farm tires stacked up.  Some boys are riding inside the tires during the parade.
So if riding in a tractor is just not enough room for everyone, why not haul your tractor wheels behind for the kids?

There is a lot more you could do at the festival. Over the full three days, there are dozens of activities that I did not get to do on my short morning I was there last year. I noticed on their Facebook page they are already advertising their annual maple baking contest ( what do I have to do to be a judge?) They have Sugar Camps that show how the syrup is made, and this year upcoming they are featuring a real interactive lumberjack show. I think logrolling is involved somehow, which sounds fantastically fun. I can just imagine myself thinking I can do it then falling flat on my face. So if you happen to be near Wakarusa in late April, I highly recommend stopping by and getting your maple syrup and a few memories to boot.  

A large armored vehicle is  displayed at the parade in Wakarusa, Indiana
It’s a small town to feature such a large vehicle. I think this was the Army National Guard.
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