The Bonnyville – Cold Lake chapter of l’Association Canadienne-Française de l’Alberta (ACFA) welcomed the community to its annual “sugar shack” celebration on Saturday. 

The springtime sugaring-off tradition coincides with Francophone Month, which is celebrated every
March by French-speaking people around the world. This year is especially significant for the Bonnyville – Cold Lake ACFA chapter as they celebrate 50 years in the community.

The sugar shack tradition originated with the annual spring harvest of sap from sugar maples—an important source of food energy, and of course sweet delights, among Indigenous people and settlers in eastern North America. 

“Cabanes à sucre” are popular seasonal celebrations in Quebec, often mixing traditional and contemporary activities. Saturday’s celebration in Bonnyville included outdoor games, food, live music, crafts, and sleigh rides. 

Perhaps the most popular food tradition of sugaring-off time is tire—a taffy made by pouring maple syrup on fresh snow. The cold snow stiffens the syrup into a sweet, sticky treat. 

The Bonnyville event brought local francophones together to celebrate their culture while welcoming the community at large to join in the fun.

Bonnyville – Cold Lake ACFA president Yenny Lopez said both aspects are important. 

“It’s something that we appreciate a lot because first of all we have the opportunity to celebrate and get together, but at the same time all the people around us are welcome to enjoy with us,” Lopez said.

She said the large local francophone community loves the opportunity “to show the different things like the desserts typical of the community, or the food that we are sharing today. All the things that are typical for us, we want to share. That is a way to open doors.”

The planned raising of the Francophonie flag was cancelled because of the national half-masting of flags in honour of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. A moment of silence was observed at the event’s opening ceremony.

MLA Scott Cyr, Town of Bonnyville councillor Brian McEvoy, and City of Cold Lake councillor Bob Mattice brought greetings.

The Edmonton-based duo “Bub et Pit” performed live music though the afternoon.

Lopez was clearly pleased with the turnout and happy that people were having a great time on a beautiful spring day. 

“People are happy, there’s a beautiful ambiance,” she said. 

Maple syrup meets snow: how Canadian can you get? JEFF GAYE
Bonnyville traffic, old-style. JEFF GAYE
Chatting at the taffy table. JEFF GAYE
Hand weaving, or le tissage à main. JEFF GAYE
Yenny Lopez welcomed everyone to the celebration. JEFF GAYE
Bub et Pit entertained the crowds. JEFF GAYE
For older people, tire (maple taffy) may be a taste of nostalgia. But the sweet treat is extra special for kids! JEFF GAYE