Since 1959, visitors have been drawn to Highland County to tour real maple sugar camps for a cultural and culinary adventure.
The tradition of the Highland County Maple Festival in Virginia returns March 12-13 and 19-20.
All-you-can-eat pancake and buckwheat cake meals, over 100 arts & crafts vendors, and live entertainment make this county-wide event a fun outing with lasting memories for the entire family.
This year, the Highland County Maple Festival features 10 unique sugar camps open for the public for free tours. Visitors have the chance to view traditional and modern techniques for creating maple syrup from tree to bottle. In addition to pure maple syrup, some local camps offer a variety of flavored maple syrups infused with native plants or aged in spirit barrels, as well as black walnut syrup, hickory syrup, and even birch syrup.
New for 2022, the familiar faces of Back Creek Farms that have been set up for years at the Courthouse Lawn in Monterey will now have their sugar camp open for tours along beautiful Back Creek in the western portion of Highland County.
Local civic clubs and organizations will be bringing back their delicious food offerings, including those famous fresh maple doughnuts, pancake and buckwheat cake meals with sausage and gravy, trout sandwiches, pork rinds, funnel cakes, and just about anything maple-flavored.
Additional food vendors on North Water Street in Monterey offer treats like maple fudge, pizza flatbreads, waffle on a stick, chorizo white queso fries, falafel, and much more.
Over 100 juried arts & crafts vendors will be available in Monterey and McDowell, providing one-of-a-kind treasures, tasty treats, and special gifts. Browse and shop with new and returning vendors for a seemingly endless variety of handcrafted items, from exclusive artwork to exquisite jewelry.
Admission to access vendors at the Highland High School and Elementary School gyms remains at $3 purchased onsite, and payment comes with a collectible maple leaf keychain that also provides access to daily noon entertainment at The Highland Center in Monterey.
Although those keychains will be branded with “2020”, they will grant visitors entry for 2022 and are sure to be a unique reminder and talking point of these interesting times.
All four days of the festival will feature entertainment. On Saturday, March 12, enjoy the popular bluegrass band Southern Rail Express at noon and the acoustic high energy duo of Scuffletown at 7 p.m. On Sunday, March 13 at noon, take a step back in time for a showing of the 1921 silent film Tol’able David that was filmed in Highland County, courtesy of the Highland Historical Society.
On Saturday, March 19, put on your dancing shoes with square dance workshops from noon to 2:00 p.m., concluding with a full square dance at 7 p.m. with callers Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe and music by Juanita Fireball & The Continental Drifters.
On Sunday, March 20, finish up the festival with crowd favorites The Little Switzerland Cloggers starting at noon. All entertainment at The Highland Center is brought to you with the assistance and sponsorship of the Highland County Arts Council.
For more entertainment options, visitors of all ages can listen to bluegrass music at Southernmost Maple in Bolar starting at noon on Saturdays, or those 21 and up can groove to the acoustic blues of Delta Junction at Hull’s Hideaway Restaurant & Tavern in Monterey starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 12.
While traveling the beautiful scenic roads of the rural mountain community, visitors will discover many other additional activities, such as spending time at kids’ fishing fun days at Hiner Town Trout Fishing north of Monterey, experiencing a living history camp and new exhibits at the Highland County Museum in McDowell, enjoying award-winning cider at Big Fish Cider Co. in Monterey, browsing local art and books at the Gallery of Highland located in The Highland Center, viewing additional vendors at The Church at the Old Oak in Meadowdale, visiting a local restaurant or store, or taking in the thrilling sights of a Valley Aerospace Team Model Rocket Launch south of Monterey on Saturday, March 12.
2022 will mark the first time the Highland County Maple Festival has been held since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additional hand sanitizer units will be placed throughout populated areas in Monterey and McDowell this year. Disposable masks will be provided at the entrance to the Arts & Crafts Show at Highland County Public Schools for those who need them.
Nonprofit organizations that are usually located in the High School Hallway will be found in the Elementary School Gym, allowing for more social distancing room for visitors in the hallway. Please stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, and follow recommended guidelines for isolation/quarantine if you recently had COVID-19 or were exposed to COVID-19.
In 1999, the Library of Congress designated The Highland County Maple Festival a “Local Legacy,” and in 2014, the Governor of Virginia signed a bill into law designating the festival as the “official maple festival of Virginia.” Even in its absence in 2020 and 2021, the festival was announced as the 2021 first-place place winner for Best Food or Drink Festival of the Shenandoah Valley Region in Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia issue, receiving the distinction for the second consecutive year.
It has also been awarded the top spot in the Best Family Entertainment category in the 2021 Best of the Valley by readers of Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record. Tens of thousands of visitors arrive annually to enjoy the event. The Highland County Maple Festival is coordinated by the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and made possible with the help of countless volunteers and organizations. Top sponsors include Summit Community Bank and Kissito Healthcare Hot Springs.
Traditional hours of the festival include Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though visitors can get a jumpstart to the day with an all-you-can-eat pancake meal as early as 7 a.m.
Full details on all the festival happenings can be found at www.highlandcounty.org/maple-festival, with posts highlighting the festival available at www.facebook.com/HighlandCounty.