At maple syrup time, you'll discover how sweet it is


March 05, 1995|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,Contributing Writer

In March, when days are warmer and nights still cool, sap begins to run in the maples. This is the time to tap the trees to collect their golden syrup. Many sites offer an opportunity to see this process, which was taught to settlers by Native Americans.

One big celebration is in Highland County, Va., where the 37th annual Maple Festival takes place over two weekends. The celebration next weekend and March 18-19 includes tours of the area sugar camps, a huge arts and crafts show, a Maple Queen and a Maple Queen Ball, free entertainment and food. For the past six years this event has been included on the Southeast Tourism Society's top 20 events.

Sugar camps in the area welcome visitors. Pick up a map of the sugar tour from the Chamber of Commerce booth inside the Highland County Court House at Monterey or at other locations throughout the county. The tour winds through the Blue Grass Valley along Routes 637 and 640, a scenic area noted for its vistas of mountains and meadows. Stop at Rexrode's Sugar Orchard on Route 637, where you can see old-fashioned production as well as the newer method. Along the same route is Puffenbarger's Sugar Orchard, where the most modern equipment is used, and you can buy maple doughnuts. North of McDowell is Eagle's Sugar Camp, which has been producing syrup for more than 200 years. Another attraction is the Maple Museum, a replica of an old sugar house on U.S. Route 220 south of Monterey. Admission is free.

The festival craft show attracts artists and crafts people from all over the East Coast. The show takes place at a firehouse, in schools and on the courthouse lawn in Monterey and at the Stonewall Ruritan Building in McDowell. Entertainment is scheduled during the afternoons at the courthouse area in Monterey and at the Stonewall Ruritan Building in McDowell. Entertainers include cloggers, musicians, country-western dancers, craft demonstrators and face painters.

Dances are also planned each night from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Ruritan Building in Blue Grass and on both Saturdays at the Stonewall Ruritan Building in McDowell. Several places in the area will be serving pancakes and buckwheat cakes topped with maple syrup, along with country sausage, ham or bacon. Some will also feature Allegheny mountain trout.

All festival activities are free except for food and evening dances. Call (703) 468-2550.

Maryland maple syrup

In Maryland you can see maple syrup production today at the Maple Sugarin' Festival in Carroll County and at Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Cockeysville; next weekend in Garrett County at Herrington Manor State Park and Swallow Falls State Park near Oakland; and over two weekends (next weekend and March 18-19) at Cunningham Falls State Park near Thurmont.

The Maple Sugarin' Festival will be held today from noon to 5 p.m. at the Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center in Westminster. The festival offers fun for the entire family, including tasting the syrup, related crafts, movies, a petting zoo, food concessions and free hayrides, courtesy of the Maryland Draft Horse and Mule Association. Maple syrup demonstrations are scheduled at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The Bear Branch Nature Center, on the property, will have a sale of bluebird houses, a bake sale and a silent auction. All activities are free. The center is at 300 John Owings Road. Call (410) 848-9040.

At Oregon Ridge Nature Center you can follow a naturalist and watch as the tree is tapped and the sap collected, and then see the sap boiled down into syrup at the Sugar House. These demonstrations will be held between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Maple products will be sold in the gift shop. Admission is free. The eighth annual Maple Syrup Pancake Breakfast will be held Saturday and March 12 at Oregon Ridge Lodge from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost is $4.50 for adults; $2 for ages 2 to 10. Tickets can be bought at the door. Call (410) 887-1815.

Swallow Falls State Park will present "From Sap to Syrup," which shows the entire sugaring process, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The trees will be tapped and sap boiled into syrup the old-fashioned way, and a local maple-sugar farm will sell maple products. Admission is free. The next day, Herrington Manor State Park will hold an "all-you-can-eat" pancake breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $5 for adults; $2.50 for children under 12. Call (301) 334-9180.

Cunningham Falls State Park has been holding maple-syrup demonstrations for 25 years. Two weekends of free demonstrations will take place in the William Houck Area of the park from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The program includes a video explaining the history and process of maple sugar production, storytelling, and maple syrup sampling. A pancake and sausage breakfast will be available each day for a nominal charge, and maple products will be for sale. Call (301) 271-7574.

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