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Maple Festival continues at John R. Park Homestead

Hundreds of people from Essex County and beyond came to the shores of Lake Erie this past weekend to take part in the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s Maple Syrup Festival.

Held at the John R. Park Homestead near the Village of Colchester, it’s a four-day event, spread over two weekends, which allows the public a chance to step back in time and learn how maple syrup is made.

Tapping into maple trees is only done at a certain time of the year and as biologist and volunteer Emily Lockhart explained, the temperature has to be just right.

“The biggest thing is that they need cold nights and warm days. In the summer all the leaves are like little sugar factories,” says Lockhart.

Lockhart said that when winter comes the sap from the maple trees will be drawn down into the roots and stored, cold nights and warm spring days draws it up into the tree itself and then it can be tapped.

“As the roots are absorbing the water they are also absorbing minerals and vitamins,” said Lockhart of the health benefits of maple syrup.

About 98 per cent of the sap that is collected from the maple trees is water so once a pail is full, it is evaporated either by a modern evaporator or in the past, over an open fire using a cauldron. Both methods were demonstrated, and it is quite time-consuming.

When the Park family would have done it back nearly 200 years ago it would have been a social event.

“They would have a sugaring off party. They would sing and dance and make the night fun because it took about 14 hours, it was quite an intense thing,” said Lockhart.

This past weekend the theme at the John R. Park Homestead was Lumberjack and there was plastic axe throwing, hands on activities at the sawmill and a beard and moustache growing contest. Sunday was the Lumber Jack dress up contest.

Periodic clothes are a big part of the Maple Syrup Festival and that is one reason that volunteer Mandy Kilian likes to lend a hand.

“I come out here because I have a friend who works for ERCA. I like costuming and learning more about maple and teaching other people,” said Kilian.

Maple Festival has been held at the site for over 40 years and according to Curator Kris Ives it continues to be a popular family event.

Blacksmithing demonstrations, kids’ crafts and the favourite maple taffy over snow were some of the activities that went on this past weekend.

“It’s nice for families to have an option that’s local. We have a lot of people who want to learn about maple so our forester from ERCA was here to show how to tap your own trees,” said Ives.

This upcoming weekend is Tasters weekend and will be held at the John R. Park Homestead on County Road 50 on both Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Maple Festival continues at John R. Park Homestead

By Fred Groves

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