MAKANDA — In 2017, the Touch of Nature Maple Syrup Festival was in a sticky situation: Warm, dry weather negatively affected sap production, leading to a syrup shortage.
But thanks to a wetter winter, everything’s flowing smoothly this year, according to Patrick Jones, marketing coordinator for Touch of Nature.
“We’ve been doing quite a few more boils. The sap has been running like crazy on the trees that we’ve been tapping,” Jones said.
Sugar maple harvesting requires specific climate conditions. For proper sap flow, temperatures should be in the 20s overnight and near 50 degrees during the day.
“Last year was sort of an unusually warm winter — not only a warm winter, but a dry winter — and I think that definitely had a bearing on how the sap was flowing. This year’s a little bit wetter, and that’s a good thing,” Jones said.
Although staff members at Touch of Nature are glad that sap production is up this year, Jones said climate change will continue to pose a problem.
“It really comes down to climate change, because we are at the southern end of where maple syrup harvesting occurs, and climate change is a reality, something that we see especially at this time of year with extremes in weather conditions. … These wild fluctuations in temperature are an indicator that something is out of sync with our climate, not just globally but especially in Southern Illinois,” Jones said.
The annual Maple Syrup Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can sample syrup harvested on the property at the Pancake Breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both days. Tickets are $12 for those ages 13 and up, $6 for ages 6 to 12 and free for ages 5 and under. Registration for the breakfast is available at www.ton.siu.edu.
The festival will go on rain or shine, and all events aside from the Pancake Breakfast are free.
This year’s festival features a climbing wall, lumberjack presentations by the Southern Illinois University Forestry Club, interpretive hikes, blacksmith demonstrations and more.
“We’ll have all sorts of children’s activities for them throughout both days, and it’s an educational experience for the parents as well as the kids,” Jones said.
Touch of Nature is currently preparing the facility’s kitchens and signage for the big event.
“Of course, this is something that we really prepare all year round for, but here it is all of a sudden, there’s less than a week to go, and here we go,” Jones said.