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Sap season is here

A participant previous year's Bendix Woods Sugar Camp Days. Several areparks are preparing for maple sugar season. | Phoprovided

A participant at a previous year's Bendix Woods Sugar Camp Days. Several area parks are preparing for maple sugar season. | Photo provided

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Updated: March 28, 2014 7:57AM



The snow is finally melting away. The days are getting longer. There are more birds singing every day.

While these signs of spring are clear, there is a more subtle and even sweeter sign of spring: The maple sap is starting to flow. Starting now and continuing into mid-March, several events in Northwest Indiana celebrate this sweet harbinger of spring.

† Right now you can Rent-a-Sap-Bucket and get a unique taste of a maple event while supporting educational programming.

For a $35 donation you get a ticket to the Bendix Woods Sugar Camp Days breakfast, pancake mix, a pint of Bendix Woods maple syrup, plus a gate pass to return to the park before November. The donation supports park interpretive programs for school groups that get to tap trees, hang sap buckets and learn how sap is transformed to syrup.

The application form can be found online at www.sjcparks.org, and will be accepted until March 7.

Bendix Woods Sugar Camp Days takes place March 15 and 16. Informative walking tours through the sugar bush and Native American, pioneer and modern syrup-making demonstrations are just part of this event.

“An annual highlight is the Lions Club pancake and sausage breakfast served with real maple syrup, but for people coming later who miss breakfast there maple sloppy joes, maple hot dogs, maple kettle corn and cotton candy, and maple baked goods available, like breads, cookies, cupcakes and scones,” according to Leslie Witkowski, interpretive services manager of St. Joseph County Parks.

The breakfast runs from 7 a.m. to noon CDT and costs $7 for adults, $3.50 for children ages 6 to 11, and is free for children age 5 and under.

Children can participate in a variety of activities and crafts, including candle dipping, trying hula hoops made out of sap collecting tubes and making dream catchers. They can also try wooden toys like those that pioneer children would have had.

“A variety of crafters will be demonstrating their work. We’ll have a wood worker who usually demonstrates making bowls, a chair caner, quilting, rug making ... blacksmithing, and new this year will be soap made with maple syrup,” said Witkowski.

Horse-drawn wagon rides, ice-carving demonstrations, barber shop singing (on Saturday), old-time music (on Sunday) and more are included in Sugar Camp Days. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT on March 15 and 16. Admission is $7 per carload, and there is a small fee for some activities. Bendix Woods County Park is located at 32132 State Road 2 in New Carlisle.

† This weekend the Woodland Indiana Camp at Buckley Homestead will be open for another maple event: Native Americans Maple Sugaring.

Take a walk beyond the 1800s homestead and farm and go into the woods and back in time to experience the 1750s. Costumed re-enactors will demonstrate Native American lifestyles including their method for boiling sap down to maple sugar.

This free event will take place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Buckley Homestead, 3606 Belshaw Road, is located between Interstate 65 and Lowell, and south of Route 2.

† This weekend is also the first of two weekends of Maple Sugar Time at Chellberg Farm of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

At stops along a self-guided hike at the edge of the woods, visitors will see interesting demonstrations showing the evolution of extracting, collecting and processing maple sap, from ancient American Indian methods with hot stones, to the sugar shack used in the 1930s by the Chellbergs, the Swedish immigrant family who farmed the land. You can also taste some pure maple syrup and see it takes to drill a tap hole and use a wooden yoke to carry sap buckets.

Maple Sugar Time is a free event. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 1, 2, 8 and 9. Chellberg Farm is located at 618 N. Mineral Springs Road in Porter, north of U.S. Highway 20, and about two miles west of Highway 49.

† Maple Syrup Time at Deep River County Park takes place on the weekends of March 8-9 and 15-16.

Watch the film “Maple Sugar Farmer” in the visitor center to get an overview of how the sugar is made. Then, join in an outdoor guided tour to learn what’s going on inside the trees, see how trees are tapped and sap is collected. The tours are offered on the hour from 10 am to 3 p.m.

The process of changing sap into syrup is demonstrated at the sugar shack, and visitors can also see how Voyageurs and Woodland Indians traditionally made maple sugar over a campfire.

Maple Syrup Time is a free event. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Deep River County Park is at 9410 Old Lincoln Highway in Hobart.



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