February and early March is a sweet time in the forests of Indiana because sugar is running through the veins of maple trees and it’s time to make syrup.
Maple syrup production is actually more widespread than many Hoosiers realize, with commercial operations scattered throughout the state.
Various estimates place the number of “active” syrup producers anywhere between 150-200 but many other people will experiment with making small batches.
Starting traditionally on Valentine’s Day every year at our latitude, annual syrup production varies but the total output for Indiana averages around 7000 gallons. This is the lowest among states that keep record and a far cry from 1916 when Indiana was first in the nation, according to the Indiana Maple Syrup Association.
Regardless of our minor-league status in terms of volume, maple syrup time is a generations-old tradition in the Hoosier state. It also provides a substantial tourism boost to many areas where the sugar camps are located.
Visitors to maple syrup camps should dress appropriately for the weather, including good walking shoes or boots. Keep in mind that the sugar camps and walking tours are often very muddy; a second pair of shoes and a few garbage bags can help keep your vehicle clean.
There are several maple syrup festivals in Indiana. The two biggest are:
The Parke County Maple Fair, February 21-22 and February 28-March 1 in Rockville. There are tours of several area maple syrup producers, dinners, craft booths and other activities throughout Parke county. For more information, check the Parke County Tourism website at http:///www.coveredbridges.com
The National Maple Syrup Festival will be held March 5-8 in Brown County at several locations including Brown County State Park and the Story Inn. Visit http://nationalmaplesyrupfestival.com