Despite being surrounded by 1,000’s of bears, 10 brave Eastern Ontario maple producers never wavered from test testing pure maple syrup against artificial table syrup and offering up samples of granulated maple sugar. The bears were on all sides of the display area and ranged in size, age, and even… colour. It was the 34th annual Governor General’s Teddy Bear Picnic hosted at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, one of two official residences of the Governor General of Canada. The event is hosted annually by the CHEO Foundation (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) as a way to say thank you to the community for the annual support and fund raising they receive through raffles, a telethon, and various cyclist/running events each year. The event is free to attend as are most attractions and a minimal charge is applied to concessions and food which draws people from all walks of life, cultures, and languages.
Eastern Ontario Maple Producers’ Association (one of eleven chapters of the Ontario Association) regularly attends four to six events each year in an effort to out-reach to consumers directly. Our goal is to both promote locally produced maple syrup but also to emphasize the health benefits of an all-natural sweeter. Of all the events we have participated in over the past five years I can’t begin to describe the absolute positive feedback we received from both consumers and organizers on our participation in this event. Our main roll was to provide real maple syrup for the pancake breakfast typically seeing 1,500 participants. Current volunteers for the event could not remember a time when real maple syrup was ever offered so it was definitely a step up on their event and extremely well received.
As maple producers we are always hit up for syrup donations every year from groups we have never heard from before but once in a while a group comes along that is worth the effort and expense. Eastern Ontario Local provided 11 gallons of syrup pre-packaged into ½ liter ketchup style plastic squeeze bottles for the caterer with another 10 gallons on site in bulk if it was needed. We wanted to ensure no one ran out of syrup and that everyone had their fill for this event. The syrup was tendered as 1 gallon (4 liter) donations from our members which are currently 72 strong and this process worked out perfectly.
In exchange for our syrup donation free display space was provided at the event where we taste tested real maple syrup against
artificial table syrup and also sampled granulated (stirred) sugar along with providing nutritional information. We also had old fashioned styled shoulder yokes adjusted to different heights for the kids to try out and a good collection of free maple recipe cards available. One of the most popular displays was our magic maple tree that runs sap at every event we attend. For what it’s worth we had a 95% success rate with the maple syrup taste testing. The 5% that preferred the artificial table syrup were either Southern US visitors from out of town or very young kids that had never tasted real maple syrup before. These types of events are a wonderful out reach for producer associations in all regions helping to not only promote local producers but the maple industry in general. If you are not doing at least one of these types of events a year please consider it because it helps us all in the long run.