Maple Syrup Time: Tap into tradition
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2013 3:16PM
Gary residents Theodore and LaToya Gilbert with children Taylor and Tiara, both 13, and Trinity, 6, listen to volunteer Jim Elwood explain the process inside the sugar shack during Maple Sugar Time at the Chellberg Farm. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
If you go
◆ Maple Sugar Time
◆ 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 9 and 10
◆ Chellberg Farm at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, on Mineral Springs Road between U.S. 12 and U.S. 20.
◆ Park programs: 926-7561 or www.nps.gov/indu/
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:12AM
Kids weren’t the only ones learning to tap maple trees for sap during Maple Sugar Time at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Molly Hacker, of Porter, grabbed a hand-cranked drill and gave it a go, putting a spile in the hole she made to draw out the sap and hanging a metal bucket with a lid from the spile to catch the sap. Her friend Andrew Blackburn, of Crete, Ill., watched.
“It’s just something I’ve known about, going on a long time,” Hacker said of the festival, a park tradition since the late 1970s. “I’m actually interested in maple sugar myself.”
Blackburn has maple trees on a project farm, where Hacker would like to try her hand at sap collection. Hacker found the different stations at the festival, detailing how maple sugar has been boiled down over time, useful.
“It’s good, helpful information, I’m sure,” she said, as a group of kids took their turns nearby.
Depending on the weather, the event, which spans the first two weekends in March each year, can draw 3,000 to 4,000 people, Cliff Goins, the park’s special events and fees manager, said on Saturday.
Just as the method of boiling down the sap has changed over time, so has the festival, at least a bit.
“The base story is the same. Sap hasn’t changed,” Goins said, adding maple sugar was a “survival food” for Native Americans in the early spring when food was scarce, and became a mechanism for financial survival for the Chellberg family during the Great Depression.
Research, though, has changed the presentations. “As we learn more, we add and subtract more stories,” Goins said.
The Gilbert family from Gary also came to the festival for the first time. Theodore and LaToya Gilbert went through the festival with twin 13-year-old daughters Tiara and Taylor, and daughter Trinity, 6.
“I had never been to Chellberg Farm. I think it’s great — it’s awesome and very educational,” LaToya Gilbert said.
“It’s cold, but it was worth it,” Theodore Gilbert added.