One-Tank Trip for March 19/16
(c) By Jim Fox
Stratford is embracing spring in a sweet and sticky way as well as with a somewhat boisterous welcome by its swan ambassadors.
Happening now is a sweet tasting tour along the Maple Trail this month and next while the highlight of welcoming spring is the annual Swan Parade Weekend on April 2 and 3.
|Stand back as Stratford’s famous white mute swans head to the Avon River.|
The Stratford Tourism Alliance presents its Maple Trail Adventure highlighting Canada’s delicious and iconic maple syrup that is “palpable as the first sign of spring,” said Cathy Rehberg, marketing manager.
“Culinary artisans invite you to sample their delicious maple creations along our self-guided trail in Stratford’s downtown heritage district and at the source, McCully’s Hill Farm (in St. Marys),” she added.
|Sweet! Making maple fudge in a copper kettle at Rheo Thompson Candies.|
This taste of spring offers choices such as aged maple balsamic vinegar; a maple sundae; creamy fudge; maple creams wrapped in chocolate; maple cupcakes; maple frozen yogurt; maple tea and coffee; and traditional hand-poured maple sugar candy.
McCully’s Farm has been a fixture in the Perth County countryside for some 160 years and is well known for maple syrup made from the sap of its trees.
|A wide selection of maple syrup products and a pancake brunch can be found at McCully’s Hill Farm.|
Visitors will learn all about the process from collecting sap to going inside the “sugar shack” where it is made into maple syrup in a wood-fired evaporator.
Maple Trail participants will receive a bottle of syrup during the farm’s Maple Syrup Festival, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this month (except Easter Sunday but open Good Friday) and throughout April.
Featured is a pancake brunch, wagon ride tours of the sugar bush and assortment of maple products in the store.
The trail invites visitors to explore the many tastes of maple syrup presented in different ways, from “yummy desserts to pampering experiences.”
|Cake artist Kandy Cosstick creates maple cupcakes along the Stratford Maple Trail.|
Some of the “unexpected surprises” are opportunities to relax with maple including an essential oil maple soap, maple foot soak while sipping maple tea and nibbling on maple cookies and a fine restaurant stop for a special maple dessert, Rehberg said.
It’s a great way to “taste the first maple syrup of the season drizzled over ice cream, dripping from a stack of pancakes or made into delicious tasty treats,” she added.
Participating businesses are Buzz Stop; Chocolate Barr’s Candies; Dee Image Co.; Distinctly Tea; Jenn & Larry’s Brittle ’n Shakes & Ice Cream Cakes; Kandy Cakes; Kiwi Kraze; McCully’s Hill Farm; Olive Your Favourites; Revival House; Rheo Thompson Candies; The Spa Near the Tracks; and Treasures.
|A delicious selection of maple creams is available at Chocolate Barr’s Candies.|
The trail pass costs $25 plus tax and includes six vouchers that can be exchanged for maple tastes from among the 13 businesses. visitstratford.ca/mapletrail; 1-800-561-7926.
Honking good time
The curtain rises in the Festival City for its feisty feathered ambassadors parading to the Avon River led by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums on April 3 at 2 p.m.
The 28 white mute swans will do their noisy waddle walk with great pomp and ceremony.
They are leaving their winter quarters at the William Allman Memorial Arena en route to the river to establish their nesting areas and mating grounds.
The crowd gets in on the action, too, with many wearing swan hats and encouraging them on.
|Honking swans make their way to the Avon River accompanied by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums.|
It’s part of the free Swan Parade Celebration from noon to 3 p.m. along Lakeside Drive (between Waterloo Street and Morenz Drive).
Stratford’s history with swans dates back to 1918 when the first gift of the birds was received, Rehberg said.
On the weekend, there are decorated topiary swans dotting the downtown streetscape, live entertainment and family activities.
This includes horse-drawn carriage tours, guided swan walks, swan-inspired children’s book readings and photos with the swan mascot.
Other events on Sunday are an outdoor main stage with the Amazing Ben Burland Comedy and Juggling Act, Fast Eddy’s Yo-Yo Spectacular and Festival City Twirlers.
SpringWorks presents a preview of the May puppet festival with an interactive children’s play zone at the Kiwanis Community Centre.
There’s also Bogle the Clown, a multi-chamber castle jumper, community mural, swan hats and crafts for children, and the Swan Express Train.
Food trucks will offer tasty treats and there will be a charity barbecue. visitstratford.ca/swans
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com
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