Festival of Sugar Maples: Sign of Spring
The McHenry County Conservation District hosts the annual Festival of the Sugar Maples each March at Coral Woods Conservation Area.
The flowing of sap at Coral Woods maple forest is an annual sign of spring in McHenry County.
This year, due to the warmer winter temperatures, the sap already is moving, said Wendy Kummerer, communications manager for the McHenry County Conservation District. Longer days – bringing additional sun light – and temperatures reaching the 40-degree mark typical get the sap flowing, she said.
“Anytime it goes above 40 degrees in the day, and below freezing at night is good for the sap,” Kummerer said.
MCCD workers tapped 50 maple trees on Feb. 17, in preparation of the district’s annual Festival of the Sugar Maples, which is free and open to all ages.
The festival is held the first two weekends in March: from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 3, 4, 10 and 11. The event takes place on the scenic 775 acres of Coral Woods Conservation Area, 7400 Somerset Dr., Marengo. Coral Woods is just a short drive west of the village of Huntley.
Local school students also will enjoy field trip excursions to Coral Woods to learn about maple sugar process beginning Feb. 27, Kummerer said.
Depending upon the weather, the Festival of the Sugar Maples has in past years drawn between 500 to 2,000 visitors. Some years, snow is still on the ground. This year, snow doesn’t seem likely to pose a problem.
The Festival of the Sugar Maples provides a stage-by-stage historical presentation of maple sugaring and the evolution of the sap-collection process. Participants will learn how maple syrup was made 100 years ago. They’ll also learn how sap is collected from the maple trees, and see how maple syrup is made at the Coral Woods evaporator house.
About 30 trained volunteers man the stages set up along the looped trail at Coral Woods to share information with visitors.
Hiking Tour with Information Stages
At one stage, guests are taught how to identify a maple tree. At another stop, volunteers demonstrate how to tap a tree with a manual drill to collect the sap. One stage shows a more advanced tubing system used throughout the years to collect sap from multiple trees.
At the end of the tour, visitors see the evaporator, where the sap is boiled.
Tours will begin every 15 minutes at the Festival of the Sugar Maples, and last approximately one hour. The tour involves a half-mile hike through the woods, and participants should dress for the weather. No pets, however. Final tours leave at 3 p.m.
The Union Lions Club hosts two Pancake Breakfast in coordination with the Festival of Sugar Maples. The breakfasts will be held from 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday, March 4 and 11, at Chevelle’s, 6517 Main St., Union. Chevelle’s is located about three miles northeast of Coral Woods. Breakfast is $6 for adults, and $3 for children.