Highland County Maple Festival Preview – Part 2

Highland County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Swecker continues with the second part of his Maple Festival preview. 


Of course, the food is the main focus of this festival and as they say, calories don’t count during the Maple Festival which is always a great thing. We’ll have the staples that we have including the all-you-can-eat pancake and buckwheat meals at many of our Ruritan Clubs and at the public school system. And we’ll also have the Water Street Food Court in Monterey which will have two new vendors this year. One is JD’s House of Bacon which will have bacon on a stick with six different glazes. Also maple bacon cupcakes and brittle.  We’ll also have Hops Kitchen, which will have an Asian theme with Asian dumplings, Thai lettuce wraps and brewery crafted nachos with maple. So we definitely try to have diverse options for every palate, and obviously with the maple theme there.


We’ll have over 100 juried arts and crafts vendors, again many returning, but there are some new vendors out there that will be available in the gymnasiums at the school,  over at the Stonewall Ruritan building – inside and outside – and on the Monterey courthouse lawn and at Ernie’s Market. they go through a competitive process so we make sure we have really top quality, one-of-a-kind items.  Everything from artwork, to wooden furniture, to jewelry, and pretty much anything in between.  It’s pretty incredible the craftsmanship of some of these vendors.


The Highland Center will increase its presence this year at the festival. In addition to hosting the Saturday entertainment, they will have a maple tap room which will feature some adult beverages, including Brothers Craft Brewing which will have a maple bacon breakfast stout available that they will be releasing just the weekend before.  It’s called Daylight Cravings. The Highland Center will be sort of a gathering place. There’ll be some food items out there and some vendors, some children’s activities outside, as well.


Of course there are many other additional activities that can be found on stops while driving around the countryside here in Highland, such as feeding the live fish at the Virginia Trout Company just north of Monterey. You can relive history at the Highland Museum exhibits at the Mansion House in McDowell. They’ll also have civil war camp and reenactors there the first weekend.  That’s March 14, and 15th. There’s additional vendors at the Church at the Old Oak in Meadowdale.  You can experience a local restaurant or store or enjoy hard craft cider at Big Fish Cider Company in downtown Monterey. Of course, one of the things is that this is a countywide event. So there really is no shortage of things to do. And if you’ve come to the festival before, there’s something new to see no matter if you’ve come for one year or 30 years. And no matter which way you enter the county you can find a new sugar camp, a new point of interest.


We understand that traffic can be an issue here at certain areas, and we do think it’s worth the wait.  From the center of Highland county and Monterey, you’re really no more than 30 minutes from the edge of the county in either direction along our main roads of Route 250 and Route 220. So you can leave town check something out, come back into town and see if traffic is reduced and enjoy your time there. So there really is no shortage of things to see. Also route 629, which is Straight Creek Road, is a road that bypasses Monterey, if needed from Route 250 to Route 220.  If you want to head to blue grass or McDowell and an alternate route to maybe bypass some of that traffic, if needed.


Traditional hours of the festival are Saturdays from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 9:00 to 4:00 pm. Though visitors can get a jumpstart to the day with those all-you-can eat pancake and buckwheat meals as early as 7:00 am. And again more details you can find at highlandcounty.org/events/Maple-Festival. Or you can go to the Facebook page: facebook.com/HighlandCounty.


The Festival’s top sponsors this year are Summit Community Bank, Kissito Healthcare Hot Springs, Big Fish Cider and MGW.  At the Stonewall Ruritan building in McDowell, there will be expanded Wi-Fi access.  Thanks to MGW and the Stonewall Ruritan Club for making that happen.


Edition number 62 of the Highland County Maple Festival appears to be shaping up nicely.  It looks like only one more thing is needed and that’s a little cooperation from the weather.  Keep your fingers crossed.   This is Mickey Frank Thomas for Allegheny Mountain Radio.

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Mickey Frank Thomas

Mickey Frank began his radio career in October 2017 when he was offered the impossible-to-fill 9:00 p.m. to midnight slot on Saturdays, where his coordinated mix of pop, soft rock and R&B from the 60s through the 80s met with little acclaim. Deciding that he needed a more awake audience, he added the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoon drive slot to his workload when it became available in December 2018. Originally from Morton, Illinois, good, old Mickey Frank has lived in more places than he can count on his fingers and toes, but now resides in Highland County.  Email Mickey Frank at  mickeyfrank@amrmail.org.

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