Why, you ask?
Well, part of is is because I read Little House in the Big Woods one too many times as a kid, and I’ve always wanted to see real, actual, “sugaring off.” The other part is because it sounded Kitchy Kool, which it certainly was. What were the features of the festival?
- The Lion’s Club pancake breakfast! Which featured awesome pancakes, but the crummiest sausages ever consumed by man or beast!
- A parade with giant tractors, the 61st Maple Syrup Princess, annnnnnd — Shriners. In real, actual, Shriner-cars.
- An old-timey blacksmith, a display of old-timey cobbler’s tools, and an old-timey NICU incubator, with a really freaky-looking doll inside.
- The biggest piece of maple candy I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a big 18″ sugar bear, which must have weighed about twenty pounds. Whoo.
- A cute little grandma who mixed up a pot of Spotza (Pennsylvania Dutch for “spot on the snow”) which involves spooning thick maple syrup on shaved ice and eating it with a stick. (Little House fans, take note.)
- A guy named Larry who demonstrated how to mix up maple sugar in a hollowed out log of “cucumber wood.” He also elaborated at great length about how his Grandpap used to make maple liquor using the same log. The Meyersdale natives standing behind me sighed heavily and muttered, “Jeez, hurry it up, Lar.”
But, most importantly, we learned The Maple Cycle, or whatever its official name is. If you have a sugar maple, here’s what you do:
Take a hand-drill and bore a hole in the tree trunk.
Then hammer a splinth into the hole, and hang a bucket on it. Sugar water will drip inside.
Then take the sugar water to a giant vat and boil it forever. Eleanor was a little scared of the boiling room . . .
But William thought it was just dandy.
Then you listen to a guy named Larry talk while spooning syrup into a log, and then you stumble outside and see Time Travelers.
Yes, the Meyersdale Maple Syrup Festival is popular with Civil War soldiers AND Revolutionary War soldiers. I wonder if they have some kind of rivalry going. Brian and I had some discussion of who would do better in a fight: Civil War Guy or Rev. War Guy? I think the Rev. War Guy would, ’cause he’d be more likely to throw a hatchet at someone. At least, according to the movies he would.
Oh — I mention this just for my sister-in-law, Kristen, who showed interest in it before. On the way home, we stopped at a convenience store and found a bottle of this:
I had sampled Birch Beer on our trip to New England last fall (it tastes like the purple Necco wafers). I had no idea that there was a Pennsylvania version — Black Bear Mountain Birch Beer! It has the life cycle of th black bear described on the back of the bottle! And what does it taste like? Wintergreen Life-Savers. I know, I know, it sounds awful, but trust me — it was kinda good, and strangely addictive. (For those of you keeping track, it was MUCH better than the Twin Bing candy bar, but not as good as a Peanut Chew. I’d say it was on the level of an Idaho Spud.)