For those who parked in the back end of the Williams County Fairgrounds, a big-toothed smile and a free ride greeted them.
Of course, that smile belonged to a horse.
Several pairs of horses pulled buggies to and from the grassy parking area, chauffeuring family after family right to the heart of this year’s Maple Syrup Festival. Finishing their trip right around the back end of the Gillette and 4-H buildings, those who went on the magical ride immediately had a choice between two exquisite options to visit.
In the 4-H building, a tree seedling sale was the main attraction. There was much more to do in the facility than simply by seedlings, however. Wildlife hunter and trapper Joe Blosser set up a display, showing off some of his animal furs. The Montpelier Tree Commission also made its home there for the morning, showing off beautiful crafts relevant to maple syrup, as well as spreading information about their fine organization and answering any tree-related questions patrons had. Even the National Wild Turkey Federation made its presence known, as representative Jim Leffel, of the Williams County Chapter, showed off turkey calls and spoke on the restoration and hunting of turkeys.
The Gillette building served as the location for the Pancakes and Sausage with “Real” Maple Syrup breakfast. With plenty of delicious food from which to choose, the large, hollow room was completely packed for most of the day. A group of griddles stood side by side, as a person was stationed at each one, flipping pancakes on constant basis. The room was filled with the chatter of friends and neighbors enjoying each other’s company over a hot, delicious meal.
Tucked away at the rear end of the fairgrounds was a building dedicated to domesticated bunnies looking to be adopted. A multitude of handlers showed off bunnies of a variety of colors, though all were quite fluffy. This stop was a favorite for children, as the majority of occupants in the room were accompanied by an adult.
A multitude of goods were on display throughout the festive morning. Aside from the tree seedlings, a popular item by themselves, many varieties of food were available for purchase. Kettle Corn produced by Poppin’ George fresh for patrons to consume. The Northwest Ohio Syrup Producers offered several wares as well, including “Real” Maple Syrup, fudge, and candy. There was even maple cotton candy being sold.
Tractor pulling wagons moved slowly about the campus, hauling its human cargo about. For many, this was the only way to travel the festival’s many events. Also, much like how the horses escorted those parked behind the fairgrounds, the tractors served as viable transportation for those with their vehicles situated in the front end parking lot.
The fairgrounds themselves were teeming with people from throughout the county, and perhaps even further than that. It was their love of maple syrup that brought everyone together, as it seems to every year at about this time. Not even the bitter cold, accompanied by chilling winds, could stop patrons from coming out and enjoying the Festival.
And when they left, it wasn’t just the horses that were smiling.
T.J. Hug can be reached at