Home Virginia is for maple lovers: Highland County festival returns for two weekends in March
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Virginia is for maple lovers: Highland County festival returns for two weekends in March

Crystal Graham
child eating a pancake at maple festival
Submitted photo/Crisp Pics LLC

Travelers can take a step back in time for a cultural and culinary adventure at the Highland County Maple Festival during the second and third weekends of March.

This year marks the 64th event, set for March 9-10 and 16-17. Traditional hours of the festival are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though visitors may wish to start earlier with maple doughnuts being served at 6 a.m. and pancake meals starting as early as 7 a.m.

Highland County has been drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the community since 1959 to celebrate the opening of the trees and to observe the process of making pure maple syrup. Ten local sugar camps will be open on Saturdays and eight on Sundays this year.

Free sugar camp tours provide an educational experience for the entire family to learn how the delicacy is made from tree to bottle, ranging from traditional to modern techniques.

maple syrup
Submitted photo/Laura Honaker Photography

Local sugar camps have expanded to include syrups infused with fruits and spices or even aged in spirit barrels.

Local civic clubs and organizations will be bringing back their delicious food offerings, including fresh maple doughnuts, pancake and buckwheat cake meals with country side dishes, trout and pork rinds. Food vendors on North Water Street and Main Street in Monterey offer expanded options for savory and sweet meals for visitors.

More than 100 juried arts and crafts vendors will be available in Monterey and McDowell.  A Highland County Artisans’ Shop will be set up at The Highland Center in Monterey to showcase local crafts for sale as well. Admission to access vendors at the Highland County Public School Gyms and The Highland Center will be $5 and may be purchased on-site (children 12 and under are free).  The $5 fee comes with a collectible maple leaf keychain that also provides access to entertainment at The Highland Center. Each day of the festival will feature at least two live shows at The Highland Center.

New offerings this year in Highland County:

Maple Festival Logo

  • Hazy Hollow Farm, just east of McDowell, will feature working cattle farm tours
  • The Charles Pinckney Jones Museum on Main Street in Monterey will be open
  • The 3rd Space and Art on Main will host art demonstrations along with juried art from Highland County
  • Children may enjoy gemstone mining for treasures while parents browse local artisan goods at The Rock Shop.
  • At the Monterey intersection of Rt. 220 and 250, shop at the grocery store of the Highland Roots Market, enjoy open house tours of the newly renovated Ernie’s Market that is now called The Highlander
  • View The Barn event space behind the Monterey Inn’s lodging and dining experiences

A pilot program to ease traffic congestion will be offered on March 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors may park for free at the Monterey Stockyard at 1367 Jackson River Road. A shuttle will transport visitors with a designated drop off/pick up area. The loop will also include the schools, downtown and The Highland Center. Complimentary parking at the Monterey Stockyard is first come, first served.  No reservations are needed.

The Highland County Maple Festival is coordinated by the Highland County Chamber of Commerce.

More information on the festival is available at www.highlandcounty.org/maple-festival

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.