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Week one of Maple Weekend proves not as busy as some north country producers would like

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Tables of maple syrup and other maple treats lined the walls around the evaporator and other equipment in the Sweeter Creations Sugar House, 348 Pearson Road, Madrid.

Producers had just turned the evaporator off at noon because no one was there to watch and learn the process.

Although Maple Weekend usually brings 200 people through the sugarhouse’s door each weekend, only about 75 people came Saturday and Sunday.

“Yesterday we had six to eight inches of snow and then this morning we woke up and it was 10 degrees out,” Michael R. Kenny, who runs the operation with his family, said Sunday. “We’re thankful that our sugarhouse is heated because a lot of them aren’t.”

It’s a later season than the producers have had in the past; they’ve only made 34 gallons of syrup so far.

“That’s low as of right now but by the end of the season, it might be totally different,” Mr. Kenny said. “It might be one of the best years we’ve ever had, but it’s hard to compare from year to year because of Mother Nature.”

What little sap they’ve had, however, has been sweeter than usual, according to Mr. Kenny.

“We’ve had sap that’s 4.6 percent sugar, which is almost unheard of,” he said. “We’ve had some 2 percent, but it’s been in the threes, so that’s a pretty good bonus.”

Although the season’s been slow so far, Mr. Kenny said he’s just thankful they’ve made some syrup, as other producers have had trouble making any at all.

Jeffrey E. Jenness and his wife, Lori, also experienced a slower than normal weekend at the Orebed Sugar Shack in DeKalb Junction.

Mr. Jenness said the sap hasn’t been running like usual this year. This weekend’s crowd was down about 50 percent from that of a typical Maple Weekend.

“We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” he said. “We could complain, but it wouldn’t do us any good.”

Not all producers in the area had a slow weekend, however.

Although Joshua C. Parker had nothing to compare this year to, as it’s his first participating in Maple Weekend, he was happy with the turnout at Parker Maple Farm, 2591 County Road 21, Canton.

He said he had between 200 and 250 people on Saturday and between 100 and 150 on Sunday.

“It was a great weekend,” he said. “I think what brought a lot of people out was the wood-pellet-fired evaporator since it’s the first in the state. Everyone wanted to see it.”

Mr. Parker said since he started tapping in January, he has produced about 186 gallons of syrup so far.

“Yesterday I was able to boil in front of everybody and I made 40 gallons,” he said.

Mr. Parker said the fact that he’s only 16 years old also attracts more interest in his business.

While some other producers have next weekend to try to boost their Maple Weekend attendance, Mr. Parker will not be participating next weekend.

“I tried to make it an event to remember and as the first year, it would just be difficult to do it two weekends in a row,” he said.

In Jefferson County, traffic was also steady at Rudd’s Family Maple Syrup at 16370 Balch Road, Mannsville.

For Kyle D. and Michelle L. Kleiboer, it took a little prodding to get their daughter Mikayla, 3, to try a sample of syrup. After giving a sip to her brother Brayden, 1, the Kleiboers, visiting Adams from their home in Port Gibson, were able to persuade their daughter to put her finger in the sample cup to give it a small taste.

After getting her first taste, she asked for the rest of the cup.

Compared with the syrup they picked up at the store, Mrs. Kleiboer said, the fresh syrup they tried Sunday was “so much better.”

“I live for it,” she said.

Asked what her favorite thing to put the syrup on is, she said it is a tie between pancakes and French toast. Mr. Kleiboer said he prefers to use the syrup on pancakes.

Justin L. Rudd, who staffed the shop with his wife, Sierra M., said the key for success would be a slight increase in temperatures, as it has not been warm enough to get full production going.

“It’s a little waiting game,” he said. “You need that three to four days in a row.”

So far, the family has made about 30 gallons of syrup. The Rudds typically produce about 200 to 250 gallons in a season.

Times staff writer Gordon Block contributed to this report.

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