The Parke County maple Fair is an annual event held in Parke County, Indiana to celebrate the history and tradition of maple syrup production in the area. Parke County has a long history of maple sugaring, dating back to the 1800s when early settlers began tapping maple trees and boiling down the sap to make syrup and sugar. The county eventually became known as the “Maple Syrup Capital of the World” due to the high concentration of sugar maple trees in the area.
When is the Parke County maple Fair?
The Parke County maple Fair takes place every year in early spring, coinciding with the start of the maple sugaring season. The fair is typically held on the last full weekend in April. In 2023, the fair dates are April 21-23. The fair runs Friday through Sunday, with events, demonstrations, exhibits, and food vendors operating throughout the weekend.
Where exactly is the maple Fair held?
The Parke County maple Fair is held in Rockville, Indiana, which is the county seat of Parke County. Most of the events and activities take place around the Parke County Courthouse square in the center of downtown Rockville. This includes the maple syrup competitions, antique tractor parade, pioneer village demonstrations, children’s activities, food vendors, and more. Some additional events take place at nearby locations such as the Rockville Community Building.
History of the Parke County maple Fair
The Parke County maple Fair has been held annually since 1970. It was started by the Parke County Maple Syrup Association as a way to celebrate and promote the county’s long tradition of maple syrup production.
How did the maple Fair get its start?
In 1970, members of the Parke County Maple Syrup Association decided to organize a county-wide festival celebrating maple sugaring season. They wanted to showcase Parke County’s history as a top maple syrup producing region and also provide educational exhibits about the maple sugaring process. The first maple Fair was held in April 1970 and was a success, bringing in visitors from around Indiana. It became an annual tradition that continues today.
How has the Fair grown over the years?
The Parke County maple Fair started off as a 1-day event on the Courthouse square with just a few dozen maple vendors and activities. Over the years it has expanded into a 3-day festival spread across multiple locations in Rockville. Today the Fair features over 100 vendors, a parade, pancake breakfasts, contests, exhibits, entertainment stages, children’s activities, and more. Attendance has grown from a few thousand in 1970 to over 50,000 fairgoers annually. The maple Fair has become one of the largest maple-themed festivals in the Midwest.
Maple Fair Events and Attractions
The Parke County maple Fair offers a full schedule of events and attractions related to maple syrup and pioneer heritage. Some of the highlights include:
Maple Syrup Competitions
The centerpiece of the maple Fair are the syrup competitions, where maple producers enter their syrup to be judged on color, clarity, density, flavor, and other criteria. Ribbons and prize money are awarded to the winners in categories like maple syrup, maple sugar cakes, candy, and cream. The sweepstakes winner earns the title of having the “Best maple Syrup in Parke County.”
Several pancake breakfasts take place around Rockville on Saturday and Sunday mornings, allow fairgoers to enjoy pancakes drenched in fresh Parke County maple syrup. The pancake breakfasts are hosted by local non-profit organizations and serve as both a tasty tradition and fundraiser.
Antique Tractor Parade
On Saturday morning antique tractors parade through downtown Rockville. The parade celebrates Parke County’s agricultural heritage and often has over 100 entries of restored tractors, implements, and other farm equipment.
Arts and Crafts Fair
Over 100 arts and crafts vendors set up booths around the Courthouse square to sell homemade items, jewelry, decor, food, and more. This allows visitors to shop for unique handmade gifts and souvenirs.
Next to the Courthouse, the Maple Fair sets up a “pioneer village” where re-enactors dress in period clothing and demonstrate 1800s era trades and skills like blacksmithing, candle dipping, quilting, and more. It provides a fun, interactive glimpse into what life was like for early Indiana settlers.
Musical entertainment takes place on two stages throughout the Fair, highlighting local bands that play a mix of country, bluegrass and gospel tunes. A parade of marching bands also occurs on Saturday morning. Amateur lumberjack competitions in wood chopping, crosscut sawing, and axe throwing provide exciting entertainment.
In addition to the pancake breakfasts, the Fair has over 50 food vendors selling classics like elephant ears, sausage sandwiches, apple dumplings, baked goods, and maple treats ranging from maple cotton candy to maple ice cream.
A kids zone provides fun, interactive activities for children at the Fair. This includes maple syrup making demos, pioneer games and crafts, wagon rides, a petting zoo, face painting and more. It’s a chance for kids to learn while having fun.
Maple Syrup Production in Parke County
Parke County has a long history and ideal conditions for maple syrup production:
When did Parke County start producing maple syrup?
The production of maple syrup and sugar dates back to the pioneer days of Parke County in the early 1800s. The abundant sugar maple trees provided an essential sweetener for settlers, who began tapping trees and boiling down sap over wood fires to make syrup and sugar cakes. By the late 1800s, Parke County had developed into a leading maple sugaring region.
Why is the area good for making maple syrup?
Parke County has the perfect combination of factors for maple syrup production:
– A high concentration of sugar maple trees species, which have higher sugar content in the sap. The county contains forested areas like Turkey Run State Park with significant stands of sugar maples.
– Ideal climate and elevation. Parke County gets cold nights and mild days during maple season, helping sap flow. The area’s rolling hills provide excellent drainage for maple tree roots.
– Maple sugaring tradition and expertise. Generations of Parke County families have maple sugaring knowledge passed down through the years.
– Supporting infrastructure like sugar shacks, equipment suppliers, packaging companies allow maple operations to thrive.
How many maple syrup producers are there today?
There are around 200 commercial maple syrup operations in Parke County ranging from small family producers to larger operations that bottle and distribute nationally. Maple syrup production is still a strong heritage industry supporting many local jobs and bringing in tourism dollars.
Are there any unique maple syrup varieties from Parke County?
Parke County is known for producing maple syrup with a light golden color and delicate flavor. The limestone-filtered water used in production helps give Parke County maple syrup its smooth, mellow taste. Producers also make specialty products like maple mustard, maple BBQ sauce, maple candies, and more.
Visiting Parke County for the maple Fair
The maple Fair provides a great opportunity to visit Parke County and learn about Indiana’s maple syrup heritage. Here are some tips if you plan to attend:
Where should I stay if I’m attending the Fair?
Rockville has some limited accommodations, but most Fair visitors stay in the nearby towns of Turkey Run or Terre Haute which have more hotel and camping options. The Indiana State Parks system also has cabin rentals and camping in Turkey Run and Shades state parks.
What is the best way to experience the maple Fair?
In addition to visiting Courthouse square, be sure to take a walk through the pioneer village, watch the tractor parade, attend a pancake breakfast, catch some live music, and sample lots of maple treats. Dress for the weather, as some events are outdoors.
Are there maple syrup tours in Parke County?
Many Parke County maple farms offer tours of their sugar bushes and sugar shacks during maple season. This is a great chance to see the maple sugaring process up close. Be sure to call ahead to confirm tour times and availability.
Where can I buy maple syrup in Parke County?
The maple Fair itself offers the widest selection of Parke County maple products for purchase. Or visit one of the county’s maple farms or sugar camp stores – they usually have syrup, candy, and related products available year round. Maple syrup makes for a unique edible souvenir.
The Future of the Parke County maple Fair
After 50 years, the Parke County maple Fair continues to attract huge crowds eager to celebrate pure maple syrup and Indiana’s sugaring heritage.
How has the maple Fair impacted Parke County?
The maple Fair provides a boost to Parke County’s economy each year, drawing in tourist dollars and providing visibility for area businesses. It has also helped cement Parke County’s status as a top maple producer. The Fair has become engrained as an annual tradition for many families.
Will the Fair continue into the future?
Given the Fair’s popularity and strong attendance numbers, it shows no signs of slowing down. The Parke County Maple Syrup Association remains committed to keeping the Fair going and evolving it to meet the interests of new generations. The maple Fair has withstood ups and downs over 50 years and will likely continue educating people on maple sugaring for decades to come.
What new elements might be added in the future?
Organizers may continue enhancing the Fair by adding more interactive, technology-driven exhibits on maple production, bringing in new food trends like maple desserts and beverages, or increasing hands-on experiences like barrel train rides through a sugar bush. To honor traditions, core elements like the pancake breakfasts, pioneer village, and syrup contest will surely remain.