LETCHWORTH STATE PARK – Conrad Baker answered questions from an attentive crowd Saturday morning as a metal pot of maple syrup simmered over an open fire.
His presentation was truly “old school,” showing the Native American technique of producing maple sugar—a slow and painstaking process, complete with heated stones and a hollow log.
The process marked the very beginning of the region’s maple industry, which is celebrated as part of the statewide Maple Weekend. Events continue today, along with March 25 and 26.
“It’s a great way to bring delicious, agricultural and relevant products to the public and for people to enjoy as well,” Baker said.
Winter turns into spring, and the maple industry is in full swing. Sugar warehouses in the GLOW area are busy producing maple syrup, sugar, cream, candy and everything from cotton candy to barbecue sauce.
Many people open their work to the public during Maple Weekend, organizing tours, events and breakfasts. That includes Letchworth State Park, which hosts demonstrations and pancake breakfasts.
The breakfast supports the Friends of Letchworth State Park, a group that supports park projects and maintenance. Visitors lined up inside the Humphrey Nature Center for pancakes, syrup and sausage.
“All of our members and officers are unpaid, so all money goes back into our park projects,” Friends of Letchworth President Carol Rathbun said. “Our most recent project was when we restored the (Civil Conservation Corps) stone picnic tables at Wolf Creek and Eddy’s Shelter.”
The group was able to secure multiple matching grants from Parks & Trails New York to continue improving the park, said Vice President Rich Parker.
Are Maple Weekend visitors generally familiar with the maple industry? “I think some do, but some really don’t,” Rathbun said. “They have a great program here. They show you the steps and have a sugar bowl to walk you through the process.”
“I think that’s why a lot of people come because they know the park does interpretive programs and there’s a maple sugaring program, so they can learn more about it. Generally, people in the area have an idea of its importance to the area, but in terms of the nuts and bolts, you can see that here.”
As of Saturday morning, more than 150 advance tickets had been sold for the breakfast, he said. About 45-50 people came to the breakfast.
He estimated there would be about 400 to 500 people at the end of Maple Weekend.
Friends of Letchworth Breakfast 10am – 2pm. Those interested in the organization can visit www.friendsofletchwroth.com for more information.
Additionally, many maple growers in the GLOW area offer tours, products for sale, and more. offers. See https://mapleweekend.nysmaple.com for a map and list of participating maple operations by state.
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