It’s time for a road trip.
This is the time of year when people head out to the country, in search of maple tree tappings, pancake breakfasts, nature trails, and visits to maple sugar shacks. The tree tapping and ensuing maple syrup boiling is actually considered one of the first rights of spring in WNY.
In New York State there are over 2000 maple sugarmarkers. Some of the closest to Buffalo include Weber’s Maple in West Falls, Smith’s Maple Farm in Hamburg, and Sweet Dream Maple Farm in Corfu. The 2021 International Maple Conference will be held in Niagara Falls from October 17-20 in Niagara Falls. Needless to say, maple sugar is a big deal around these parts.
If all of this sounds good to you, then consider attending the annual Maple Sugar Festival at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. The festival takes place March 19 – March 28 (Fridays-Sundays), in tandem with the NYS Maple Weekend (180 farms and museums participate in the event, which is sponsored by the New York State Maple Producers Association).
Unfortunately, in 2021, the decision has been made to cancel Maple Weekend, seeing as many of the sugarmakers don’t have the means to facilitate safe social gatherings and events due to the pandemic. According to Maple Weekend organizers, “… certain local maple producers may have physical facilities that can safely operate with drive-through, online ordering for take-out, limited-capacity safe accommodation of socially-distanced customers, etc. Likely there is a maple producer with these accommodations near you who will be open for these sorts of visits. To find one of these safe-operation producers, we encourage you to use our map and directory of maple producers that lists hours of operation and the types of visits that each can host.”
The message is clear in 2021 – buy local and support the maple sugar and syrup makers, which typically depend heavily on Maple Weekend to drive sales.
As sad as it is to see that Maple Weekend is canceled (for the most part), Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M) is still planning on hosting its Maple Sugar Festival, scheduled to take place from March 19 to March 28 (Fridays through Sundays).
Hike through the Nature Center’s Maple History Trail, stop into the Sugar House, and stroll through the Historic Village – it’s akin to stepping back in time, while also learning about the tree tapping advancements that have been made over the years.
- In the Museum’s modern sugarhouse, a wood-fired sap evaporator will be boiling up sweet maple syrup, ready to be bottled and sold
- Learn to identify a sugar maple tree, how tall they grow, and how big and old they need to be in order to tap them
- Enjoy Haudenosaunee origin tales of maple sap with storytellers
- Try your hand at tapping a tree, or making a tin ornament ($)
- See some of the techniques and tools that early settlers would use to collect sap in order to make it into maple sugar
- Costumed interpreters in the historic kitchens cooking up maple-inspired dishes for sale ($)
- Sampling the chilly, taffy-like treat “sugar on snow” at the Nature Center
- Visit the Flint Hill Store to purchase sweet confections like maple cotton candy, maple cream, and maple syrup ($)
- Demonstrations of late-winter crafts and trades like coopering, meat preservation, and candle-making in the Historic Village
- All-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the Museum’s Meeting Center ($)
The Genesee Country Village & Museum is located 50 minutes from Buffalo, in Mumford, NY. That’s not that far, considering that there is so much to do during the course of a visit, including a visit to the Depot Restaurant and Freight House Pub for some food and drink. Be sure to try the seasonal Maple Fat Ox Ale, brewed by Flying Bison Brewery, in addition to the Museum’s Stocking Hill Ale. The list of activities and treats goes on and on…
The Maple Sugar Festival will run from 10 am-3 pm and the Pancake Breakfast will have reserved seatings between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for two weekends, March 19-21 and 26-28.
GCV&M, with its John L. Wehle Gallery, is the largest living history museum in New York State with the largest collection of historic buildings in the Northeast.
Tickets for both the Festival and Breakfast will be pre-sale only, through the Museum’s website at gcv.org beginning March 1.
COVID precautions, including social distancing measures and mask-wearing both indoors and outdoors while on-site, will be in place throughout the Festival, and tickets will be timed entry, pre-sale only. Pancake breakfast tickets are separate from Festival tickets, and both are available on the Museum’s website gcv.org beginning March 1. Timed seatings for the breakfast are pre-sale only, with limited capacity due to COVID restrictions.
Lead image: Tree-tapping practice – photo by Beth Kingston