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Mount Hope Maple Madness coming soon

Danielle Ryan

(1/31) These cold winter days practically call for hot off the griddle pancakes smothered in fresh, warm maple syrup for hearty weekend breakfasts. Partner these delicious pancakes with local craft vendors and maple sugaring tours and youíve got a morning full of fun for the whole family. Mount Hope Maple Madness has finally arrived!

Contrary to popular belief, the first sign of spring is not the appearance of a robin, but is noted as the running of sap through Maple trees, and currently Maple sugaring is kicking into high gear in this area. This year, Maple Madness will take place during the weekends of February 24 and March 3.

This annual event is a very important part of Strawberry Hillís year at the Preserve. The pancake breakfast helps to raise money for the environmental education programs, and offers an opportunity to open up one of the most popular group programs to individuals and families. Strawberry Hill serves more than 6,000 school children annually, providing important hands-on learning experiences. They work hard to keep field trip fees low enough to be accessible by public schools, and fundraisers like Mount Hope Maple Madness are a means to that goal.

Each season dozens of spiles, tubes, and buckets are used to collect maple sap. Volunteers help split many cords of wood to keep the all-important fires burning. Countless hours are spent gathering from buckets and tending the evaporating pan as the sap condenses down into sticky, sweet syrup. It takes many gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup. Maple sugaring is a fantastic educational experience, with significant links to history, chemistry, geography, and Ė of course Ė ecology.

As always, the Pancake Breakfast at Camp Eder is offered between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.; the cost for an adult is $8, $4 for a child, and children under 3 eat for free. After breakfast, visitors can visit local art and craft vendors, then take a maple sugaring tour at Strawberry Hill from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tours leave Camp Eder, located at 914 Mount Hope Road, Fairfield, every 45 minutes, with the last tour leaving at 12 p.m. The cost is $8 for an adult and $5 for children. A "sweet deal" package is offered which includes breakfast and a tour. Tickets for this package are $12 for adults and $7 for children.

Mount Hope Maple Madness began more than a decade ago as a small pancake breakfast to raise money for environmental education. Over the years Strawberry Hill has been able to develop their maple-sugaring program and build a strong connection with Camp Eder and as a result, the pancake breakfast has grown into a festival that serves hundreds of visitors each day. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a delicious and fun-filled morning!

If you wonít be able to make Mount Hope Maple Madness, donít fret because you can attend the 48th Annual Maple Syrup Festival right across the Maryland line in Frederick County. This event is held March 10 - 11 and 17 - 18. The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Houck Lake Area of Cunningham Falls State Park. Food will be served including pancakes, sausage, sausage sandwiches and hot dogs and Maple syrup products will be sold. A maple syrup making demonstration will start every hour and continue throughout the day. Kids can enjoy free games, stories and crafts in a large, heated tent and local bands will provide live music. All money collected during the festival weekends goes to the Friends of Cunningham Falls State Park to support the park.

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