It may be Maine’s sweetest Sunday of the year, even if the syrup isn’t flowing.

More than 100 sugar houses across the state will open their doors to the public Sunday as part of the 32nd Annual Maine Maple Sunday. Visitors will be treated to demonstrations in syrup production, sugar bush tours and enough sweets to make a dentist cringe. There will be everything that is needed for a fun day out with the family.

But with just days to go, there just might not be much sap.

“We haven’t got anything,” said Sherry Wilson, of Wilson Family Maple Syrup at 652 Benton Road in Albion. “We’ll still be open.”

The persistent cold weather, coupled with regular cloudy weather and wind, means that the maple trees around the state are continuing their winter slumber and holding tight to the sap that syrup producers boil into sugar. Cold temperatures this week, including temperatures on Sunday that are expected to stay below freezing, mean that many sugar houses will spend Maple Sunday boiling water rather than sap.

“We’ve produced a couple of batches, but it’s not running very well,” said Doug Tibbetts, who with his wife, Gail Tibbetts, owns Raiders Sugar house at 148 Bog Brook Road in China.

Shelley Bacon, of Bacon Farm Maple Products at 1427 Pond Road in Sidney, said the business boiled sap for the first time on Friday. Bacon, like producers across the state, said that is later than normal.

Kathy Hopkins, extension educator for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said syrup production began last week in most places, but there was still a shortage of sap. Monday, which was sunny, warm and featured little wind, was promising, Hopkins said.

“There are places in Maine where I’m sure it’s running today,” she said Tuesday. “It’s always site-specific, and we have a big state. Somebody’s making syrup.”

The ideal conditions for sap collection are temperatures that dip into the 20s during the night and rise into the mid-40s during the day — plus plenty of sun and little wind. “We’ll still have a good season, I think,” Hopkins said.

Tibbetts, who keeps track of the yearly sap flow, said the peak flow in 2013 and 2014 came in the first week of April.

“Last year was almost a spitting image of this year,” Tibbetts said. “Last year was a short season, but the quality was very good. This year seems to be the same.”

This is the first year Tibbetts will participate in Maine Maple Sunday. His business, which recently joined the Maine Maple Producers Association, is finally at a point where it can receive the public. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of preparation,” he said.

That activity isn’t limited to the state’s sugar shacks, however. Old Fort Western in Augusta will celebrate Maple Syrup Sunday for the 22nd year. Events will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. and include demonstrations showing how to whittle spiles, tap trees, and collect and boil sap over an open fire, according to a news release from the fort. Journey Cake will bake over an open hearth in the kitchen. In the parlor, people can watch as maple syrup is transformed into maple sugar, a staple sweetener of the 18th century. Maple syrup vendor Eric Turcott, of Sweet Ariana’s, will have maple syrup and maple syrup products available to taste and purchase.

Wilson, of Albion, said those types of events are what Maple Sunday is all about. Even if there is a dearth of sap, there still will be plenty to keep families entertained. Wilson will offer hay wagon rides to the sugar bush, weather permitting, and there will be demonstrations, pancakes and syrup for sale. Wilson thinks there will be sap to boil, but production will be slow.

“The biggest thing for us is the educational part,” Wilson said.

The day promises to offer a taste of spring after what has felt like an exceptionally long winter, Wilson said. “As hard as the winter has been, it’s a great thing to do,” she said.

Maine’s maple syrup industry, which is the third-largest in the nation, contributes nearly $30 million directly to the Maine economy each year, according to a University of Maine study. The industry generates 567 full- and part-time jobs and $17.3 million in labor income.

Tibbetts said the late start is no reason to believe that this year will draw those averages down.

“Everybody says this season’s not looking very good, but you never know,” he said. “The month of April could be the best season we’ve ever had. You never know until it’s over.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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