We’d missed last year’s event because we were driving down to Florida for a visit with family, so our only impression of the event had been what people told us: that there was a train the little ones get excited about, that breakfast is delicious, and that the weather is typically bitterly cold. We can now attest that all three rumours are true.
Although we walked to the festival (about a ten or fifteen minute walk from our house under normal circumstances), there seemed to be plenty of parking just off the street. The core stretch of the downtown area was barricaded off for pedestrian use, and entering from the top of the hill we immediately sensed the event’s atmosphere by its large white tents, a clown on stilts, music and balloons. Several vendors added their colour to the mix, including a couple cute, old-fashioned maple syrup huts.
We were impressed with the great turnout, despite the cold which measured in at -3 but felt like -10 (or worse) with the wind. But the sun was shining and we ran into several people we knew (some from the train, where Mark and Moo rode the caboose) which added to the feeling of coming out of hibernation. So nice to see other people again, outside! The atmosphere was convivial and positive. It would have been hard not to smile.
This streetfest took us back to our memories of the Polish Festival on Roncesvalles in Toronto. In Toronto we lived just off of Roncy so we could hear the accordion music blaring all day and all night. Later in the evening drunks would leave pleasant gifts in the alleyway next to our house. The event itself was difficult to navigate (especially for people with strollers or a pregnant woman) because it was so crowded. The Paris Maple Syrup Fest, by contrast, was so so pleasant. There was enough of a crowd to justify the festivities but it wasn’t so packed with throngs of humans that you couldn’t easily get around. We did have to wait in line for our pancakes, but it was a short, pleasant wait with chatty neighbours.
We had started out our day a bit later than planned, so our pancake breakfast turned into a pancake lunch, and we sat at picnic tables with another lovely couple from England and their two sons. We don’t know if we’ll ever stop saying, “It’s a small world” out here; everyone seems connected to each other, and we think that’s a beautiful thing. It keeps people honest, kind, and aware of the community they belong to.
While we ate, the mainstage featured a 10-year-old voice student singing Justin Bieber (with plenty of adults dancing along), a few Abba hits and country songs galore. Volunteers served hot chocolate, scrubbed tables, took out trash – and it felt good to support the Paris Lions Club; money raised at this event is used to support local initiatives like maintaining and improving Paris Lions Park.
On our way out, Moo got a balloon from the clown who twisted it into a yellow daffodil. She waved it around enthusiastically on the walk home. We’re looking forward to doing that in spirit for many years to come, as it seems this fest is a turning point in the year where we optimistically see spring just around the corner.