WAKARUSA — Rain didn’t seem to do much to dampen the spirits of those who poured into downtown Wakarusa to be part of the return of the Maple Syrup Festival on Saturday.
Families strolled up and down about two blocks of Elkhart Street to check out craft booths and food vendors, to stroll into several brick-and-mortar businesses open for the event, to nosh on funnel cakes or nachos, or to let children enjoy a kiddie ride or two, or three.
The annual festival returned for the weekend after it was forced to go on hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several families were happy and excited for feeling a sense of returning to normalcy.
“It feels really good to have the festival back. It feels somewhat normal. It feels pretty safe being outside,” said Jolinda Lengacher of Wakarusa. “I think it’s a good way to reintroduce some of the things that we’re used to.”
Lengacher was at the festival with her 5-year-old grandson Tucker. She spoke shortly after the two rode the carousel right near the center of downtown.
“I want to play on all the rides,” Tucker said.
Rachel Davidson of Goshen said she and her family were also happy to see the Maple Syrup Festival’s return.
“We come every year for the pancakes, mostly; ride the rides for the kids,” Davidson said.
Making their debut at the event was the husband and wife team of Patrick and Bianca Letens of Nappanee, better known as the brains behind Dutch Waffle Co.
At their booth, the two, with help, produced their signature brand of “stroopwafels” for festivalgoers. The term, Patrick Letens said, translates from Dutch to “syrup waffle.” Basically, he flattened a ball of batter and grilled it into a thin cookie. He then cut open the wafer and filled the halves with a layer of caramel maple syrup.
The snack is a favorite in the Netherlands, where the Letens are from. They recently moved to Nappanee and started their business. They’re wholesalers, Letens explained, who bake their waffles in the kitchen at Rentown Country Store in Bremen. They’d planned to be part of the Maple Syrup Festival last year.
“We emigrated in November 2019,” Letens said. “And they invited us to come last year, but because of COVID, it got postponed. So, and, now, this is our first year.”
Festivalgoers apparently had positive reactions to trying out the stroopwafels.
“People are really liking them,” Bianca Letens said.
Patrick Letens said the business has been invited to participate at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair in July, but they don’t have the money yet to procure a trailer for the event. He said they plan to sell pre-packaged stroopwafels as a way to try and raise money.
“We’re going to have the big ones as well, but we’re going to make them at Rentown Country Store, and then we’re going to sell them pre-packed,” Letens said.
The Letens also plan to attend other festivals throughout the area this year.
The Maple Syrup Festival ran three days, ending on Sunday. Entertainment included a BMX bike show, animal shows, a comedy magician and bands.