5th annual Maple Tour entertains crowds and good weather
Things were booming at maple camps in Somerset County over the weekend.
That’s because the 5th annual Maple Taste & Tour brought out visitors from both near and far to 15 different camps in Somerset County and one camp in Clearville in Bedford County. Listie Volunteer Fire Department was an additional site, serving pancake breakfasts at Somerset Alliance Church. The Somerset Historical Center gave tours on maple history. Black Bear Camp in Larimer Township had been on the list of tour sites, but was razed by fire in early February and had been closed.
“The weather cooperated wonderfully this year,” said Everett Sechler of Sechler Sugar Shack near Confluence. “Starting out you never know what to expect from year to year because March still has some nasty weather. But this tour brought more people out to see the maple businesses. I always say it is a good time of year to get outside because everyone has cabin fever.”
Sechler started making maple syrup with his father, Earl, at a very young age and his line of maple producers actually goes back to the 1850s, when Everett’s great-great- grandfather, Jonas Meyers, a 142nd Pa. Infantryman in the Civil War who was wounded at Gettysburg and fought in the Wilderness, started making syrup prior to the war.
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Now the Sechlers have eighth-generation maple producers at the camp who set up a little boiling operation outside during the tours. Sechler and his wife, Christine, sons Josh and Joel are sixth generation, Joel’s daughter, Clara, is seventh, and then Everett’s brother, Eldon’s grandchildren are eighth-generation.
For the past two years of touring, the weather has been cold. But Saturday started out with 40 degree temperatures and did get a little colder as the day went on. An overnight ice storm on Saturday evening into Sunday morning didn’t affect the tour because everything was melted and sunny by Sunday morning. While most producers didn’t have the right weather to boil on Saturday, the overnight freeze and Sunday warm-up made it possible for camps to boil for visitors on Sunday.
The maple camps offered samples and recipes of a variety of food, like mini-hot dogs marinated in maple syrup, maple no-bake cookies, maple cotton candy and even maple milkshakes among several other items. Their products were on display for sale as well.
While many visitors came to taste treats and buy products, a vast majority was able to learn about the technology associated with the maple industry.
At Sechler’s camp, Corey and Victoria McClintock of Fort Hill toured with their children Kallie, 8, and Alex, 10, and their nephew, Carter Schartiger, 8. Corey McClintock said that there is always something educational at the maple camps.
“We enjoy seeing the people and touring the camp because there is always something new to see,” said Corey. “It’s a good time to get out of the house.”
Jonathan Pletcher, who was helping his uncle Bearl Faidley at Holler-Hills Maple in Markleton, said that things were busy at the camp on Saturday and the good weather brought more people out. Faidley established Holler-Hills Maple in Upper Turkeyfoot Township in 2009 after his father, Elden Faidley, who died in 2007, requested that Bearl start a maple sugar camp.
“We started in 2009 and this is our eleventh season,” said Jonathan, who explained that Holler-Hills has about 2,100 taps on their farm.