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Maple Sugar Festival draws crowds with pancakes and sap-to-syrup

Maple Sugar Festival draws crowds with pancakes and sap-to-syrup

The sap of the maple trees at the Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview is flowing, just in time for the annual Maple Sugar Festival on Saturday, March 2.

The festival has activities for all ages and showcases the process of tapping the sap and turning it into maple syrup.

The purpose of the festival is threefold, said Wayne Eckley, an outdoor resource teacher at Fairview.

“One is to educate people on the process of making real maple syrup. Second is opening our facility,” . . . and third, “hopefully it’s a nice spring day and people can get out and enjoy being outside,” said Eckley.

He has been organizing the free event for the past 12 years with help from his coworkers, and it was going on before that.

The turnout for the festival is very weather dependent. Last year, schools were closed the day before the event due to a wind storm and attendance was low because the festival day was also windy.

In 2017, the weather was breezy and sunny and they had their biggest crowd ever.

“I think it’s a really nice family activity and we have lots of nice things for children to do for free,” Eckley said.

And some people come just to purchase the genuine Maryland products, including two types of maple syrup and maple cream, a butter-like spread made with maple syrup.

Eckley said he and a coworker tapped eight maple trees on Feb. 15 to see how the sap was running. Five days later, the buckets are three-quarters full and ready to be emptied.

“The sap only flows when it’s rising, when it’s below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. That’s why this is the perfect time for that — springtime,” Eckley said.

He said once the buds come on the trees, the sap turns bitter.

For the first time in about five years, the fire tower will be open. Last year, it was too windy and for several years prior to that, the tower was under repair.

There will be continuous demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as festival veteran Chuck Bowler of Smithsburg gives an interpretive sap-to-syrup demonstration at the Fairview sugar shack.

All the trails at the school site at 12808 Draper Road just northwest of Clear Spring will be open. Attendees can walk to the Fairview Sugar Bush to see the sap flowing from the trees into buckets.

Other special features include bluegrass music by Ernie Bradley and Grassy Ridge from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the top of the roundhouse building. Magician Dean Burkett will do balloon sculpting at the bottom of the roundhouse building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There will also be face painting, stations for making tree cookie necklaces and fake bear claw necklaces, hayrides and marshmallow roasting.

The Clear Spring FFA Alumni are hosting a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Fairview Dining Hall. There is a fee for the breakfast, which raises money for agricultural education in FFA programs at Clear Spring High School.

Free parking and shuttle service to festival sites will be provided. There are reserved handicapped parking spots in special parking lots up the hill.

Top photo: In this 2017 file photo, Maple Sugar Festival volunteer Chuck Bowler of Smithsburg checks the thickness, color and temperature of a batch of sap that is being cooked into maple syrup during the Maple Sugar Festival at Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview. (Herald-Mail file photo)

If you go ...

WHAT: Maple Sugar Festival
WHERE: Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview, 12808 Draper Road, Clear Spring 
WHEN: Saturday, March 2, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
MORE: Genuine Maryland maple sugar products available for sale. Free parking and shuttle service to festival sites available.
8 a.m. - 11 a.m. Pancake breakfast by the Clear Spring FFA Alumni in the Fairview Dining Hall (there is a fee). Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 301-766-8138. 
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Continuous interpretive sap-to-syrup demonstration by Chuck Bowler at the Fairview sugar shack, along with access to the fire tower, trails, face painting, crafts, hayrides and marshmallow roasting
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bluegrass music by Ernie Bradley and Grassy Ridge in the top of the roundhouse building
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Balloon sculpting by magician Dean Burkett in the bottom of the roundhouse building


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