Kick off Canada’s 150th anniversary with the sweet taste of maple

Posted on February 14, 2017

Essex There is no better way to kick off the country’s sesquicentennial celebration than with a uniquely Canadian tradition. Starting in mid-February, the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area will be maple syrup central, tantalizing visitors’ taste buds while teaching them about the role of maple in our region’s rich human and natural history.

“Maple making has been an early spring tradition in the eastern half of our country long before the time of John and Amelia Park; this was a process originally discovered and honed by the First Nations people of Canada.  What could be more Canadian today than getting outside, and experiencing this time-honoured tradition of tapping the maple trees and participating in the transformation of sap into pure maple sugar, butter and syrup?,” asks Kris Ives, the Homestead’s Curator. “Our maple events have something for everyone, from families looking to enjoy a day outside, to backyard producers in search of information, to food-lovers looking to try something new.”

From mid-February to the end of March, over 1,500 students from Windsor-Essex will visit the Homestead for maple education programs. These students will connect maple syrup making to their classroom studies in many subjects including math, science, history, and culture. Students will see trees tapped and assist with sap collection; explore the history of First Nations’, early settlers’ and modern producers’ methods; practice plant identification; and learn about the science behind maple making; all while touring the original Park Family farmstead.  Just like in maple making, there is a sweet reward at the end, each program wraps up with participants tasting a maple treat. Groups and clubs can also arrange for a private maple tour anytime by advance appointment.  Maple season in Essex County is short, so interested groups are encouraged to reserve a space by contacting the Homestead at jrph@erca.org or 519-738-2029.

The Homestead also has a slate of events presented during Maple Month. On Sunday March 5, from 11am to 4pm, the Homestead will open its doors for the region’s premier Maple Syrup Festival. Festival-goers will enjoy a wide-range of maple-themed stations, from the science of maple to the tasty maple taffy board. They’ll even get to tap their toes to some old-time fiddle music in the parlour thanks to local musician Mike Houston.

On Tuesday, March 14 and Friday, March 17 at 1:30pm, the Maple March Break events will cater to families looking to get outdoors during the weeklong break. Costumed guides will take groups around the Homestead site and get hands-on with the pioneer maple syrup making process. Both events are pay-at-the door, $4/child, $6/adult and a $20 family maximum (up to 3 kids and 2 adults.)

The foodies of the Essex region can also enjoy the sweet taste of maple at two special events in March. On Tuesday March 17, starting at 7pm, local gourmands can take part in an old-fashion sugaring off party at Maple Moon. Visitors will warm up with a pioneer-era barn dance then help collect sap and boil it down by moonlight. By evening’s end, they will work up a hunger only satisfied by the sweet taste of maple sugar and handmade taffy. Admission for Maple Moon is $15/person by pre-registration only.

For those foodies with a bigger appetite for maple, join us at Oxley Estate Winery for the annual Maple Dinner Fundraiser on Saturday, March 18. Benefiting the John R. Park Homestead and the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, the five-course meal will have a hint of maple in every bite. Cost is $65/person and reservations can be made by calling the winery at 519-738-3264. Seats limited.

For more information, contact the Homestead: 519-738-2029, or jrph@erca.org or visit www.erca.org/maple