Every year, the Wittenbach Wege Center on Vergennes Street holds a maple syrup extravaganza. Blue skies and brisk, but comfortable, weather made for an enjoyable day in the center and on the trails. Here’s a look back at Maple Syrup Fest 2018.
It was a full house at the center with the parking lot overflowing with visitors.
Inside, volunteers — including some from Boy Scout Troop 102 — were dishing out some seriously delicious pancakes. They were smothered with maple butter and maple syrup and served with some tasty sausages on the side. Grand Rapids-based BLis generously donated maple syrup for the pancake breakfast, and we can vouch for its sweet, sweet goodness.
Inside the center, there was a special display about maple sugaring as well as syrup for sale.
Then outside, visitors could see the process in action. First stop was a wigwam that replicated a Native American camp.
Maple sugaring is a long process so in addition to having their kids help as they could, Native Americans probably had games, such as this ring toss, to keep the little ones occupied.
There are apparently a couple different theories behind how Native Americans heated tree sap into syrup. One is that they poured sap into a hollowed out log and heated it by adding rocks from a fire. The heat from the rocks would then cause the sap to boil down to syrup. Since Native Americans had no means to store syrup, it was most certainly transferred to another log where it was stirred until it turned to maple sugar. Naturalists at the Maple Syrup Fest note Native Americans may have consumed as much as 40 pounds of maple sugar during the late winter and early spring months since other forms of food were in short supply during this time of year.
Farther down the trail, at the nature center’s log cabin, visitors heard about how maple sugaring changed in colonial times. Trees were tapped rather than cut into as had been previously done. This new system allowed the sap to flow out of a tree without causing permanent damage.
At the cabin, there were also fried donuts to sample and a maple syrup concoction that resulted in a chewy, caramel-like candy. The latter was made by pouring hot maple syrup over shaved ice. It replicated a treat Native Americans and early settlers may have made by pouring hot syrup over snow.
If you didn’t make it out to Maple Syrup Fest today, you’ll definitely want to watch for this annual event next year. It’s one more reason we love Lowell!