MARATHON — Nothing stands in the way of tradition for fans of the Central New York Maple Festival.
Not snow. Not ice. And definitely not the cold Saturday.
Especially when pancakes are involved.
Former Marathon residents Roseann Sculley and her husband, Tom, drove up from Virginia to attend the festival.
“It’s like a homecoming,” Roseann Sculley said. The event gave her the opportunity to meet with people she knew, including her daughter, Alicia Dubrava, who came to the festival with her husband, Marshall Morehouse, from Buffalo.
“I’ve been coming here for about 25 years,” Dubrava said. “We plan trips to come to the festival.”
She and Morehouse agreed in unison their favorite part of the event is the pancake breakfast.
“It’s tradition,” Morehouse said.
This year marked the 48th year of the Maple Festival, which ran Saturday and Sunday. Since it started, the festival has been serving the same kind of pancakes that keep bringing people back, said Connie White, the entertainment chairwoman. The festival has always used New Hope Mills pancake mix from Auburn.
County Legislator George Wagner flips pancakes Saturday at the Central New York Maple Festival.
“People want the pancakes,” White said.
A line a few hundred people deep wrapped around the halls of the Marathon High School, waiting to get a taste of the flapjacks.
Down the hallway from where people anxiously waited for pancakes, eight people were stuffing their mouths as fast as they could for a pancake-eating contest. Patrick Rank, of Moravia, won the contest for the second year in a row, eating 20 pancakes — three more than last year. He tied for the title in 2016, skipped 2015 and won in 2013 and 2014.
Through the contest he raised more than $1,100 for the Moravia Summer Reading Program, which his daughter is a part of.
“It benefits her,” he said.
All pancake-eating contestants raised money for their organization of choice, including Hubbard’s Hounds Rescue Dogs, Cortland Community Center, Marathon Girl Scouts and others. The eight contestants ate 88 pancakes and raised more than $6,000.
White said the idea for the contest came from the notion that everyone in their family knows of someone who can eat a lot of pancakes. Their champion.
“It is a happy occasion,” White said.
There was much more than just pancakes for the thousands who attend the festival to enjoy, according to White. There were bands and theater performances inside the high school.
Even “Elvis” showed — played by Wayne Curtis.
All weekend long there were helicopter rides, craft shows, horse-drawn wagon rides, a chainsaw carver, countless vendors, a usedbook sale and more spread across the village.
Lisa Baldwin of Clay, who attended the festival Saturday with her husband, Steve, and daughter Caroline, skipped the pancakes and instead ventured through the used books and explored the vendors.
“The whole town is welcoming,” Lisa Baldwin said. “There are some of the most talented crafts people I’ve ever seen here.”
Trent McCall of Truxton brought his hobby of making custom turkey calls to the festival for the second time.
Set up in front of the high school, he fought the cold weather, got to mingle with the people at the event and sell some turkey calls.
“It is neat to meet the people,” McCall said. “I make a lot of connections.”
The tradition of the event runs deep in John Robinson Jr.’s family.
Since the very first Maple Festival 48 years ago, starting with his grandfather, his family has been coming to the event, showing off their antique tree-sawing machine.
With stacks of tree trunks in place, the machine saws off about three inches of one trunk at a time. People could buy the cut maple slabs.
Robinson Jr. said people used them for decoration or to make clocks out of them.
By Saturday afternoon he had already sold 50 of them for a wedding.
The only time the machine is ever brought out is for the two days of Maple Festival, Robinson, Jr. said.
“It is a family tradition,” he said.