Monterey, Virginia’s Annual Highland Maple Festival takes place every 2nd and 3rd weekend of March. The 2011 event, the 53rd year of the festival, is scheduled to take place on March 12-13th and March 19th-20th.
According to the festival brochure, this event is designated a Local Legacy by the Library of Congress and is listed as one of Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events.
Held in Virginia’s least populated county known as “Little Switzerland,” the Maple Festival combines the incredible natural beauty of the county with a celebration of its citizens’ rural way of life. Each year brings thousands of tourists into the county of perhaps 5,000 residents to celebrate the process of old-time syrup-making. Pancakes and buckwheat cakes are made and consumed by the tens-of-thousands, all decorated and flavored by the locally made syrup.
While there are many and varied events surrounding the two weekends, the cornerstone event is visiting the county maple sugar camps. Here, visitors can observe and even participate in the entire process: from tapping the maple trees to collect a barrel of sugar water to reducing the liquid by boiling to a concentrated gallon of syrup.
Maps are available at almost every festival venue to direct you to all the camps on the “Maple Sugar Tour” including the Eagle Sugar Camp, Puffenbarger’s Sugar Orchard, Rexrode’s Sugar Orchard, Southermost Maple Products, Sugar Tree Country Store & Sugar House, and Duff’s Sugar House. Each of these different camps is a mini-festival of their own and offers unique experiences. Music, guided tours, locally manufactured foods, local honey, baked ham, BBQ, country stores, homemade donuts and local arts & crafts are among the many activities.
For those more interested in the specifics of the syrup-making process, different camps provide working examples of open-panned wood-fired evaporators, modern computerized oil-fired evaporators, vacuum pumps and reverse osmosis process, and old style collection in buckets. Camp hours and days of operation vary and are available on the sugar camp maps. Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly.
In addition to the Maple Sugar Tours, the Festival features a Maple Queen Contest, a Festival Sugar Shakeup Dance, and a huge and varied Craft Show with a one-time admission fee of $2 per person.
Local bluegrass music and clogging take place nearly hourly throughout the festival at different venues. Check the schedule and maps to keep up.
Area museums, The Maple Museum and the Highland County Museum & Heritage Center also offer special programs during the Festival.
Order a Festival Guide online now at the event’s website
The Highland County Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 223
Monterey, VA 24465
Highland Maple Festival brochure, Highland County Chamber of Commerce, 2009.