Maple Syrup Festival on tap at Hueston Woods

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Maple Syrup Festival on tap at Hueston Woods | James Sprague, Middletown Journal

HUESTON WOODS - The end of winter and the beginning of spring signal much more than rain showers and blooming flowers. It marks the beginning of maple syrup season as well.

Hueston Woods State Park is hosting its 46th annual Maple Syrup Festival March 3-4 and 10-11, featuring syrup-making demonstrations, a pancake breakfast, hayrides and authentic Ohio maple syrup for sale.

"It's a really popular event," said Chad Smith, naturalist supervisor for Hueston Woods. "It signals the start to our busier season and is family friendly for all ages."

The festival examines the craft and history of maple syrup production in Ohio, and will offer tours throughout the park's nature preserve where maple trees are tapped for their sap, Smith said.

That sap is later cooked and evaporated into maple syrup through a variety of methods, Smith said.

"We'll be demonstrating the Native American version (of making maple syrup) all the way to the pioneer version, which is most like the current way," Smith said.

The hourlong tours will begin at the park's Pioneer Farm and hayrides will escort patrons to the nature preserve.

Patrons will then walk the park's Sugarbush Trail through the preserve while listening to park guides recount the history of maple syrup production and providing demonstrations. The tour then ends at what Smith calls "The Sugar Shack," where the maple sap is transformed into tasty syrup.

"Hiking on the tour is low impact, but for those who can't hike the hayride will take them directly to the 'Sugar Shack,'" Smith said.

The Hueston Woods Lodge will also offer a pancake breakfast all four days, featuring — what else —Ohio maple syrup, Smith said.

Though the maple syrup made at Hueston Woods won't be available for sale, the festival will offer syrup from other producers throughout Ohio for purchase, Smith said.

"We have sold our maple syrup traditionally in the past, but we don't have the manpower to do that anymore," Smith said.

"We'll probably tap 50 to 75 trees in the park for the demonstrations. If we wanted to sell it, we would have to tap 300 to 400 trees; it takes 30 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup."

Admission to the park and the festival is free, Smith said.

"It's a great event, and depending on the weather we can have 2,000 people or more," Smith said.

"Hopefully everyone who comes goes away with understanding a little more about how syrup is made."

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