The 63rd Highland County Maple Festival is March 11 & 12 and 18 & 19 – Part 1


Hi, this is Chris Swecker, Executive Director of the Highland County Chamber of Commerce.  It’s that time of year again.  The Highland County Maple Festival is set for March 11 & 12 and March 18 & 19.  The 63rd annual event will feature all of your all-time favorites, as well as some new activities to experience and make some memories.

So, this year in 2023, we’ll have ten local sugar camps where they produce maple syrup.  They’ll be open for free tours.  There will be ten on Saturdays and eight on Sundays.  If you’ve never been before this is a chance to see how pure Virginia maple syrup is made, from tree to bottle.  You can see traditional methods as well as modern ones and even expand beyond maple syrup in some of the sugar camps, where there is hickory, birch and even black walnut syrup.

Of course, a huge part of the festival is all of the delicious food offerings we have and all of the Ruritan Clubs will have their traditional all you can eat pancake and buckwheat cake meals.  Usually, they range from $12 to $15, with some extras on the side.  And, of course, most everybody’s favorite…..maple donuts.  The Mill Gap Ruritan Club will be set up in Monterey.  They get started as early as 6am there and then there will be some donuts as well at some of the sugar camps and other places in town and all around the county.

We will also be increasing the amount of food vendors on North Water Street and Main Street in Monterey, so that guests will have a lot of choices whether you’re in the mood for something savory or sweet.

A major part of the festival is browsing with our arts and crafts vendors.  We have over 100 of them available in Monterey and McDowell providing one-of-a-kind treasures, tasty treats and special gifts.

We do have an additional spot for arts and crafts this year at The Highland Center in Monterey.  A Highland County Artisans Shop will be set up there.  This is an inaugural event of that which features exclusively Highland County crafters.  There you will find Sweet Run Farm, Cabin Critter Designs, Fair Hill Farmstead, Wild Virginia Crafts and APixxie’s Art.

The only entry charge at the festival is a $5 entry fee to go into the Highland County Public Schools, the elementary and high school gyms where the arts and crafts vendors are, as well as at The Highland Center.  That $5 comes with a collectible keychain.  It’s a maple leaf keychain this year that has “Virginia is for Maple Syrup Lovers” on one side.  That also grants you access to the 10am and 2pm entertainment at The Highland Center that we’ll talk about in our second story.

You can purchase those keychains at entry to the high school and elementary school gyms as well as The Highland Center and, if you’re in Highland County beforehand, they’re also available at six different convenience stores in the county.

One thing to remember about our festival is that it is county wide.  So pretty much no matter where you go you’re going to see some type of activity, whether that’s visiting a local restaurant, taking in a general store, like the new revitalized Doe Hill Mercantile, or grabbing a cider at the award winning Big Fish Cider Company, checking out the Highland County Museum in McDowell, with new exhibits including one on the Maple Museum that used to be located in Monterey, or even a Valley AeroSpace Team model rocket launch that’s held on Saturday, March 11.

So there’s tons of things to see and do for the entire family and you can check all that out at our website, just go to and click on the Maple Festival event.

Another thing to remember is that traffic can sometimes get pretty backed up with our two main roads that we have of Route 220 and Route 250, but, again, if you leave and go to a different sugar camp or check out another point of interest, you’re really never more than 30 minutes away from the edge of the county to the center, which is Monterey.

The Maple Festival is so big there’s plenty more to talk about, so we’ll include that in the second half of this story.

For Allegheny Mountain Radio, this is Chris Swecker.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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