Visitors to Deep River County Park this month will get a chance to step back into time and see how maple syrup was made during the early 1900s.
Maple Syrup Time will be from 10 a.m. til 4 p.m. March 9-10 and March 16-17 at Deep River County Park, Hobart.
The program began in 1980, with two men boiling sap into syrup over an open fire, said Joanna Shearer, program director at Deep River County Park.
“The syrup wasn’t the best quality, but they made syrup and they were so happy,” she said.
The program has expanded over the years, and now attracts about 1,000 during the course of two weekends.
The process begins when people go out into the woods and about 100 taps are placed into maple trees.
“As it warms up, there will be more and more sap dripping out, and we collect it. It drips out one drop at a time, and it doesn’t take long to get a bucket full,” she said.
The collected sap is taken to the sugar shack, a small barn in which the sap goes through the process of having the water evaporated out of it.
“We do it how it was done 100 years ago, in a wood-fired evaporator,” she said.
The syrup is then taken from the evaporator and taken to the park’s catering kitchen, where it is filtered, bottled, labeled and ready for sale.
Visitors to Maple Syrup Time will be able to walk through the entire process, and see how the trees are tapped, visit the sugar shack, and then see the finished project, Schearer said.
“We put out about 100 taps, and the bigger the tree, the more taps you can put in it, up to about four,” she said.
Depending on the weather, trees remain tapped for about two weeks, when it is below freezing at night and about 40 degrees during the day.
“Sometimes, you have to empty a bucket twice a day because it’s flowing that fast,” she said. “It only comes out a drop at a time, but it still comes out quickly.”
The amount of sap produced is completely dependent on the weather.
“The last winter was totally bizarre, and the sap won’t run and flow when the weather is crazy,” she said. “It’s up to Mother Nature. She can be mean, but what can you do?”
In addition to walking through the park and seeing how the syrup is produced, visitors can interact with members of the Voyageurs group, who will talk about how syrup was made and used during the 1700s and early 1800s.
The Voyageurs, who are a new addition to Maple Syrup Time, will be dressed in their authentic clothing and using only utensils that would be authentic to their era.
“They didn’t have bottles for syrup, so they made sap into maple sugar, which they boiled with their vegetables and meat,” Schearer said. “They used it to help sustain them when their provisions were low.”
Visitors also can view a video every hour on the half hour, called Maple Sugar Farmer.
“It’s a very informative, yet entertaining movie,” she said.
They also will have the opportunity to buy maple iced donuts, maple tea, coffee and hot chocolate, and soup.
The gift shop also will be opened, where they can buy maple sugar candy, maple sugar, and maple syrup as well as other pioneer-themed items.
There also will be guided talks about the tree-tapping process, as well as kid-friendly activities like coloring and play games.
The park’s grist mill will also be open, and visitors can see corn being ground into cornmeal.
“People can taste the syrup, and a lot of people have never tasted pure maple syrup before,” she said. “They can play checkers in front of the stove, or see a weaver working or a whittler. There’s a lot to do, and everything is free.”