PLYMOUTH-Although temperatures outside were blustery, hundreds gathered under the sun at the Plymouth Congregational Church green to take part in the fifth annual Maple Festival.
“It’s just a nice New England tradition,” Jerry Milne, the organizer of the festival, said.
Milne is a Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) forester by day and a maple syrup hobbyist by night. He has been making maple syrup at his home for the last 30 years.
Five years ago he introduced the idea of a Maple Festival to the church to tie in to the 275th anniversary.
“I thought it would be a perfect place for a Maple Festival because you have this traditional New England green with a congregational church and sugar maples,” Milne said.
Tree tapping started at 10 a.m. for kids to get the opportunity to tap in the spouts, hang the buckets and collect sap. Visitors were then able to watch maple syrup boil on an outdoor fire, sample sugar on snow and maple sugar candy made by Milne.
Maple baked beans and maple ham were also available for purchase inside the church to the sound of fiddling by Down Home Frolic.
The Plymouth Library hosted arts and crafts for children and the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce sponsored horse drawn hay rides.
Each year the festival is held on the first Saturday of March. Milne said prime time for tapping starts in February and runs into March. However, this season has been a little warmer than others.
“February was too warm with the two 70 degree days, which is bad for maple sugars. You need nights in the 20s and daytime temperatures in the 40s,” Milne said.
He said the change in temperature (from 20s to 40s) allows for pressure to build up in the trees to force the sap to rise, but with warmer temperatures it slows things down and bacteria begins to grow.
“They say wind from the west makes sap run best, wind from the east sap runs least,” Milne said.
On a day with seasonal weather, Milne said two gallons could be produced. On Saturday he only expected half a gallon.
“(Saturday’s) cold weather is good, but it’s going to slow things down,” he said.
According to Milne, tapping season traditionally starts on Presidents’ Day in Connecticut, but this year he began tapping on Feb. 10.
“If you live in Connecticut you should be familiar with maple sugar and how it is made. I don’t think people appreciate how much work it is and people sometimes confuse it with Aunt Jemima. That’s fake syrup, this is the real deal,” Milne said.
He said the festival attracts people from all over the state from as far east as Baltic and as far south as the shoreline.
“It draws people from all over because there aren’t that many maple festivals in Connecticut, there’s only a handful and it’s just such a beautiful spot.”