The tradition of the Highland County Maple Festival in Virginia returns March 12-13 and 19-20. Since 1959, visitors have been drawn to Highland County, Virginia, to tour real maple sugar camps for a cultural and culinary adventure. All-you-can-eat pancake and buckwheat cake meals, over 100 arts and crafts vendors and live entertainment make this county-wide event a fun outing with lasting memories for the entire family.
Traditional hours of the festival include Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though visitors can get a jumpstart to the day with an all-you-can-eat pancake meal as early as 7 a.m.
This year, the festival features 10 unique sugar camps open for the public for free tours. Visitors have the chance to view traditional and modern techniques for creating maple syrup from tree to bottle. In addition to pure maple syrup, some local camps offer a variety of flavored maple syrups infused with native plants or aged in spirit barrels, as well as black walnut syrup, hickory syrup, and even birch syrup. New for 2022, the familiar faces of Back Creek Farms that have been set up for years at the courthouse lawn in Monterey, Virginia, will now have their sugar camp open for tours along beautiful Back Creek in the western portion of Highland County, Virginia.
All four days of the festival will feature entertainment. On March 12, enjoy the popular bluegrass band Southern Rail Express at noon and the acoustic high energy duo of Scuffletown at 7 p.m. On March 13 at noon, take a step back in time for a showing of the 1921 silent film Tol’able David that was filmed in Highland County, Virginia. courtesy of the Highland Historical Society. On March 19, put on one’s dancing shoes with square dance workshops from noon to 2 p.m., concluding with a full square dance at 7 p.m. with callers Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe and music by Juanita Fireball & The Continental Drifters. On March 20th, finish up the festival with crowd favorites The Little Switzerland Cloggers starting at noon. All entertainment at The Highland Center is brought to you with the assistance and sponsorship of the Highland County Arts Council. For more entertainment options, visitors of all ages can listen to bluegrass music at Southernmost Maple in Bolar starting at noon on Saturdays, or those 21 and up can groove to the acoustic blues of Delta Junction at Hull’s Hideaway Restaurant & Tavern in Monterey, Virginia, starting at 8 p.m. on March 12th.
This year will mark the first time the festival has been held since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additional hand sanitizer units will be placed throughout populated areas in Monterey and McDowell, Virginia. Disposable masks will be provided at the entrance to the arts and crafts show at Highland County Public Schools. Please stay home if a person has symptoms of COVID-19, and follow recommended guidelines for isolation/quarantine if a person recently had COVID-19 or was exposed to COVID-19.
In 1999, the Library of Congress designated The Highland County Maple Festival a “Local Legacy,” and in 2014, the Governor of Virginia signed a bill into law designating the festival as the “official maple festival of Virginia.” Even in its absence in 2020 and 2021, the festival was announced as the 2021 first-place place winner for Best Food or Drink Festival of the Shenandoah Valley Region in Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia issue, receiving the distinction for the second consecutive year. It has also been awarded the top spot in the best family entertainment category in the 2021 Best of the Valley by readers of Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record.