Maple Syrup Festival returns to Wakarusa

Apr. 28—WAKARUSA — Having first taken place 55 years ago, the Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival returned this weekend.

At their home on North Elkhart Street, the Lechlitner family hosted one of the many yard sales which took place around the town Saturday during the festival.

"We catch them going from the school to uptown," said Velma Lechlitner on the foot traffic the festival brought it.

Kicking off Friday at 11 a.m., the festival continued Saturday with a 10 a.m. parade, an all-you-can-eat package and sausage meal hosted by the Lions Club and the Wakarusa Fire Department, a 1K kids fun run, a 5K run/walk, and other events.

"Today has been fantastic," said Brock Rose, director of the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce late morning at the festival information booth. "This morning at about 7-7:30 we probably had about 600 people, then it swelled to about 2,000 or more. We expect a record crowd today if the rail holds off."

Rose noted that Friday evening's rain did shut things down a bit, but since a lot of indoor festival events took place around that time, things worked out.

Rose reflected on the origins of the festival, which first took place in 1969, with a lot of support from Dr. Robert Abel, the longtime medical doctor and community leader for the town, who died in 2017.

"It started out small," Rose noted.

In addition to carnival rides, a food court, a pickleball tournament, a petting zoo and other activities, numerous vendors and businesses were set up along C.R. 3 and Waterford Street — Junior Achievement, Maple Cotton Candy and others.

"It's been going good," said Officer Silas Grossman of the Wakarusa Police Department, also noting that Friday's rain showers had impacted things a bit. "Today looks pretty packed and busy."

Live performances, including from The 1985 Totally '80s Music Tribute, NorthWood Middle School Select Singers, Lee Anne Stewart Dance School performers and others were also featured at the festival at the Doc Abel Pavilion.

Among the hundreds who attended the festival Saturday were 2023 Miss Elkhart County 4-H Fair Queen Maya Narayan, her mother, Lisa Narayan and her grandfather, Denny Grove.

"It's tons of fun to be in the parade," Maya said.

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Steve Wilson is news editor for The Goshen News. You can reach him at