Sweet Success: Return of Maple Weekends to Northern Canada | News, Sports, Jobs
WEST CHAZY — Spring is in the air, and so is the sweet smell of maple syrup.
For the first time in two years, Maple Weekend, a two-weekend event, returned to the North Country on Saturday, and 140 sugar shacks were expected to participate.
Something for everyone
The North Country Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy kicked off Maple Weekend by hosting their annual activities, which included a pancake breakfast prepared by the Country Corner Diner, a tour of the facility to see how maple syrup is made and a tractor and wagon ride.
The event drew crowds of people and families who were happy to see him return.
“We try to come every year so the kids can learn about sap making, eat maple products, and buy maple products,” Andrea Allen said, who brought her two grandchildren, Kingston Griffith, 8, and Lorelei Lyon, 3, from Vermont to attend the activities.
“This is Lorelei’s first time here.”
Two of the owners, Mike Parker and his wife Laura Parker, said they were pleased with the turnout for the event.
Laura said she wasn’t sure how many people would show up for Maple Weekend after two years away.
“We are blown away by the traffic. We didn’t know if people would still be hesitant to release something like that.” she says.
“We couldn’t have it with COVID.”
Laura said the activities offered this year were fewer than usual as they were still cautious about the pandemic.
“We wanted to provide the best experience for families to get out, enjoy, have fun and hang out here. It really is a family event. We have coloring pages and stuff inside right now (for kids). Over the past few years, we have had more,” she says.
“We used to have a petting zoo, pony rides and horse-drawn carriage rides, but we’re still trying to get back to that. We’ll see how it goes and if we can recover more from these events. We try to involve the community in these different ways.
Parker Family Maple Farm is historic in the West Chazy community, and the current owners are fifth generation.
The farm was first purchased in the late 1800s, and Mike said its rich history begins with the maple trees on the property.
“I tap the same trees my great-grandfather tapped in 1899”, he said.
“It’s super sustainable agriculture. You can tap, from the time the tree reaches 40 years old, until it dies, and maple trees live to be around 250 years old.
The tapping process—collecting the sap from the maple trees—usually begins in early January and can last several months for the Parkers.
From tree to barrel
Mike said it takes about eight hours, from tree to barrel, to make the maple syrup everyone loves.
“We run it through reverse osmosis, which is basically filtration. What it does is filter the sugar molecules from the water. We remove about 90% of the water before we start trying to cook it to save energy,” he said.
“It takes a lot less energy to strain it than to cook it, and then when you cook it from there, it caramelizes and tastes the same as it did years ago.”
Laura said they were looking forward to the rest of Maple Weekend and having the opportunity to educate more people about maple syrup.
“A lot of people, even if they live in the area, have never been to a sugar shack and learned how its (maple syrup) is made – education is our main focus and making sales,” she says.
“We’re really happy to see people come out today.”