BY BRITTANY LODEWICH
Last month, Hamilton’s Westfield Heritage Village festival hosted the final days of its maple syrup festival this year. The village attracts families of all ages and is a tasty, fun, and educational experience for all.
Upon entering, the instant smell of sweet maple and brisk spring air is abundant. The gift shop is filled with an array of sweet goodies and is warmed by a burning fireplace and chatter. There is also a building for guests to purchase a pancake lunch featuring the village’s exquisite maple syrup.
Adult admission is $12, youth $6.50, and senior $10. Maple syrup may be the main attraction, but there is a lot of history to be learned on these enchanting grounds.
Guests are free to explore the village and to discover each building’s unique purpose and characteristics. Pioneers are on almost every corner ready to tell visitors of how life was like back then.
The village was created in 1960, where two school teachers from Brantford bought 30 acres of land and planted 5,000 trees.
“All of these houses that you see here were moved here from somewhere else,” explained Brandon Davis, a Westfield employee. “Instead of the children in the classroom looking in picture books they wanted to show them what it was like living 150 to 200 years ago. They wanted to actually experience what it was like back then so they created a little village for them to come.”
In 1964 the village started off with only seven buildings and has now grown to 40.
Further into the woods, there stood kettles and burning firewood, and the air was filled with a light sweet scent. Stephen McCoy, a Westfield employee shared some knowledge of maple syrup.
“For them it was the only source of a sweetener for the whole year. So they wouldn’t just be making syrup to put on their pancakes for the next few weeks because that’s how long the syrup would last, they would be boiling it right down to sugar. Then they would have it for baking and sweetening other things for the rest of the year.”
Today we use screw on caps and air tight bottles for our maple syrup. Back then they bottled it with a cork but even then it would only last about a month.
“If you buy a bottle of maple syrup today from the grocery store, as soon as you crack that seal air gets into it and it starts to break down. You can put it in the refrigerator, you’ll get a couple more months out of it. You can tell once it’s not good you’ll start to see lumps,” explained McCoy.
In addition to all of the antiquity, there is an old train that has been restored enough to take photos with, and even a little barn with farm animals like ducks, bunnies and horses. Lastly, the village offers a tractor ride that takes families around the village.