As many of you know, I love to travel and visit new places, experience life to its fullest you could say. I also have this crazy idea that I want my children to visit each state in our country before they graduated high school. Children not only learn about different cultures but they learn about themselves during the process. What better way to learn, first hand! Yes, I am a kinesthetic learner and so are my children. We have some grand adventures!
When you think of Vermont what do you think of? Me, it’s maple syrup and farms. Close your eyes, are you thinking? Yup, can you see it, the syrup on the farm in the winter. When we travel we have a couple of rules, one of which is to do something that is known to that area or that is the only place you can do this particular activity. It helps us to keep focused and enjoy the state for what it is worth.
Introducing the Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans, Vermont! Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Here is the official web page for the event.. vtmaplefestival.org
The festival has so many events that it is impossible to do the festival in one day, actually one weekend. Many events are free and there are some that cost a few dollars. It is a very family friendly event. The event kicks off on Friday with an different event every year, the year my kiddos and I went, the event kicked off a dog show. During the festival, there is an antique show, a carnival, booths set up with different vendor that usually change between Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday morning there is a big maple festival parade, with the maple festival grand marshal, bag pipers, scout troops, the Maple Festival Ambassadors, local political office holders, children groups and dancers.
When you plan your trip to the festival you have to pick and choose what you want to participate in because it is action packed. Having gone with my children most of the events we choose were children friendly. We parked at the local high school stadium, the local bus service provides free shuttles all day long throughout the event. Let me tell you, it is a must to park and take this, parking is horrible., It will save a lot of hassle for you. In Taylor park, which seems to be the center of the festival, we started our day with balloon hats and animals from the balloon man! Yup, free my favorite kind of activity. We then watched a dog demonstration from dogs at the local animal shelter.
The main street of the festival is covered with food vendors, again we still o the rule, what is known or special to the event. We ended up having maple flavored everything, (I was maple sugared out by the end of the day) Taylor park also offers pony rides, which the children did how could we not? It was a very inexpensive activity (I want to say about three dollars for a five minute ride) I know what you are thinking that isn’t a very good price. Normally, I would agree but considering the place, the venue and the amount of people there, it was a good deal. On the street, there are the food trucks; we had maple creamees (ice cream but in Vermont they are called creamees), maple flavored soda, maple candies, pizza and maple flavored pretzels. Told you, lots of maple flavored items.
On Saturdays only the local sugar houses are open and (free!) tours are given. The Maple sugar association members gives a guided talk on the bus ride that takes you to the sugar houses. They explain the general process of sugaring, every house does it slightly different but the general process and cost are explained. We toured the Hilltop Maple House, they had just finished their first year of sugaring. During the tour, we were given maple sugar cookies to try and spoonfuls of syrup to try. Umm yay!!! We learned how the sap is taken from the trees and funneled down the hill to the plant and how it is cooked and turned into syrup. Honestly, it is a little more complicated than that but I could make an entire separate entry about that!
After the tour we went back to the Taylor park area and got the kids face painted, again free and they do a beautiful job, it’s not just a little animal it is an entire face painting.
During the festival there are food and cooking shows and tasting, what I loved about them is you can just walk up and sit and listen to a demonstrate, often times, they give you a sample and then you can go on to something else. On Saturday morning they do a big pancake breakfast at the local school, this is a pay event, it cost about $5.00 a person to eat a huge breakfast with of course maple syrup. Throughout the day there are vendor booths that you can purchase specialty items from local vendors, such as soap, cutting boards, maple syrup (like you couldn’t have guessed that one right?), clothing, and Vermont knick knacks.
The historical society has the doors open to the local history museum, which again offers free admission to tour the history of St. Albans, Vermont and some of New England, The museum is amazing, you can see different medical equipments, railroad items and more. It is a must see for the museum lovers.
This year they had a children program at one of the local schools, the children participated in different activities, and were given a “passport “ book to gather stamps at the end they traded their stamped book in for a treat. They had a puppet show, take your picture as a maple sugarer, ring toss, balloon events and more. This again was all free. The planning event committee of this event does a fantastic job of balancing activities for the children and their parents without breaking their pocketbooks.
Through out the entire show, they have maple syrup competitions, it is a huge competition and throughout the state you can see people proudly displaying their ribbons.
We finally ended our very long and event filled day with a trip to the carnival. Now, usually I don’t participate in carnivals because they are over priced and money suckers. I was reluctant to go but one of the vendors there gave us a book of 50 tickets, for answering and playing a game. How could we resist/ The children were able to ride and play games for the next hour.