Maple sticks as a local tradition
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 22:04
You might have heard that Vermont prides itself on its maple syrup production. You may not know, however, that the sugaring season has already come and gone for the state.
At the end of every season, a festival in celebration of our maple pride is held in Saint Albans, a town about 30 miles north of Burlington.
But in all honesty, there may be little to celebrate, as this year’s sugaring season was bleak.
Prime sugaring conditions require warm days and freezing nights.
This daily change in temperature in the stages of early spring causes the sap to run up and down the tree.
Sap is collected and then boiled down into the product we enjoy on everything from waffles to ice cream.
While Vermont weather has generally met these conditions this year, another factor has stifled the continued production of quality maple syrup.
The uncharacteristically warm days experienced this March caused trees to bud prematurely.
Once this budding process has begun, the chemistry of the maple tree alters, yielding sap that renders off-tasting syrup.
This typically bad-tasting syrup is called “buddy syrup.”
Because of these dismal conditions, maple sugar producers were unable to produce a standard year’s quantity of high quality syrup.
Some say climate change may be to blame for these conditions.
Where Vermont once boasted some of the best maple syrup in the world, much of that industry may soon be lost to higher quality syrup in other regions as prime sugaring conditions shift north toward Canada.
This reality has the capability to diminish the strong economic and cultural traditions of the area.
I grew up in Saint Albans and the festival has always been a part of who I am, and many others alike.
I have often expressed that there are two sides to the festival.
The ugly commercialized part is one side that is manifested through the low-grade rides and fair games.
This, however, is something necessary to guarantee the continued success of such fairs.
A child is impervious to these vices, as all they see is a fantasy world triggering exhilaration and excitement.
The other side is a more wholesome tradition that actually relates to maple syrup.
There are festivities such as maple syrup quality contests, crafts and even the annual election of a maple king and queen.
Despite my original intentions of showing up at the festival, I somehow find myself gorging my face with confections like maple cotton candy, sugar on snow, maple shots, fried dough with maple syrup, maple doughnuts, maple ice cream and, somehow out of place but always there, a pint of Al’s french fries.
I know for sure, however, that this weekend I will load a car with my friends and drive to Saint Albans, just to show them a piece of my history and a small part of Vermont tradition.