Sweet success: Maple Weekends return to the North Country

Laura Newton, co-owner of Parker Family Maple, explains the production process. The Parkers were happy with the turnout for the Maple Weekend event. Laura said she wasn’t sure how many people would show up after two years of not having it. (Carly Newton/Press Republican)

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-long event, returned Saturday to the North Country, and 140 sugarhouses were expected to participate.

Something for everyone

The North Country’s very own Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy kicked off Maple Weekend by hosting its annual activities, which included a pancake breakfast catered by the Country Corner Diner, a tour of the facilities to witness how the maple syrup is made, and a tractor and wagon ride.

The event ushered in crowds of people and families who were happy to see it return.

“We try to come every year, so the kids can experience the sap being made, eat some maple products, and buy some 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.”

“Blown away”

Two of the owners, Mike Parker and his wife Laura Parker, said they were happy with the turnout for the event.

Laura said she wasn’t sure how many people would show up to Maple Weekend after two years of not having it.

“We’re blown away by how busy it is. We didn’t know if people were still going to be hesitant to come out to something like this,” she said.

“We haven’t been able to have it with COVID.”

Laura said the activities that were offered this year were less than usual as they were still being cautious of the pandemic.

“We wanted to provide the best experience for families to come out, enjoy it, have fun and spend time here. It’s really a family-oriented event. We have coloring pages and stuff inside right now (for kids). In past years we’ve had more,” she said.

“We used to have a petting zoo, pony rides and horse-drawn wagon rides, but we’re still trying to ease back into it. We’ll see how it goes and if we can get more of those events back. We try to involve the community in those different ways.”

Since 1899

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 located on the property.

“I’m tapping the same trees that my great-grandfather tapped in 1899,” he said.

“It’s super sustainable agriculture. You can tap, from the time the tree hits 40 years old, until it dies, and maple trees live to be about 250 years old.”

The tapping process — collecting sap from the maple trees — usually begins in early January and can last several months for the Parker’s.

From tree to barrel

Mike said it takes about eight hours, from the tree to the barrel, to make the maple syrup everyone loves.

“We run it through reverse osmosis, which is basically filtration. What it does is filter out the sugar molecules from the water. We take about 90% of the water out before we start trying to cook it to conserve energy,” he said.

“It takes a lot less energy to filter it out than it does to cook it, and then when you cook it from there, it caramelizes and has the same flavor as years ago.”

Laura said they’re looking forward to the rest of Maple Weekend and getting the opportunity to educate more people about maple syrup.

“A lot of folks, even if they live in the area, have actually never been to a sugarhouse and learned how its (maple syrup) made — education is our goal mostly and to do some sales,” she said.

“We’re just really glad to see people coming out today.”


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