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Itís maple sugaring time again!

Danielle Ryan

(3/1/2016) Hot off the griddle pancakes smothered in fresh, warm maple syrup partnered with local craft vendors and maple sugaring tours offers a day of fun spent with the family. Thatís right itís that time of the year again: Mount Hope Maple Madness has arrived! Contrary to popular belief, the first sign of spring is not the appearance of a robin, but is noted as the running of sap through Maple trees, and currently Maple sugaring is kicking into high gear. The first week of this event has already passed but if you missed it, you can still attend the event on Saturday, March 5.

The Pancake Breakfast at Camp Eder is offered between 7:30am and 11:30am, the cost for an adult being $8, $4 for a child, and children under 3 eat for free. Maple sugaring tours will also be given at Strawberry Hill from 9am to 12pm. Tours leave Camp Eder every 45 minutes, with the last tour leaving at 12pm. The cost is $5 for an adult member /child and $8 for an adult non-member. A "sweet deal" package is offered which includes breakfast and a tour. Tickets for this package are $12 for adults and $7 for children.

This event is a very important part of Strawberry Hillís year at the Preserve. The pancake breakfast helps to raise money for the environmental education programs, and offers an opportunity to open up one of the most popular group programs to individuals and families. Strawberry Hill serves more than 6,000 school children annually, providing important hands-on learning experiences. They work hard to keep field trips fees low enough to be accessible by public schools, and fundraisers like Mount Hope Maple Madness are a means to that goal.

Each season dozens of spiles, tubes, and buckets are used to collect maple sap. Volunteers help split many cords of wood to keep the all-important fires burning. Countless hours are spent gathering from buckets and tending the evaporating pan as the sap condenses down into sticky, sweet syrup. It takes many gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup. Maple sugaring is a fantastic educational experience, with significant links to history, chemistry, geography, and Ė of course Ė ecology.

Mount Hope Maple Madness began more than a decade ago as a small pancake breakfast to raise money for environmental education. Over the years Strawberry Hill has been able to develop their maple sugaring program and build a strong connection with Camp Eder and as a result, the pancake breakfast has grown into a festival that served more than 300 visitors each day in 2015. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a delicious and fun-filled morning! Camp Eder is located 1 mile from Strawberry Hill at the address 914 Mount Hope Road, Fairfield.

If you wonít be able to make Mount Hope Maple Madness, donít fret because you can attend the Annual Maple Syrup Festival in Frederick County. This event is held March 12 - 13 and 19 - 20. The festival takes place from 10am to 2pm at the Houck Lake Area of Cunningham Falls State Park. Food will be served including pancakes, sausage, sausage sandwiches and hot dogs and Maple syrup products will be sold including maple syrup, maple cream and maple candy. A maple syrup making demonstration will start every hour and continue throughout the day. Entertainment will be provided as local musicians will be playing from 11am to 1pm. All money collected during the festival weekends goes to the Friends of Cunningham Falls State Park to support the park.

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