It’s been the best of weather, it’s been the worst of weather for maple syrup.

Spring sprang on Tuesday and some snow is predicted for Wednesday night into Thursday, but that’s not going to spoil festivities for the 35th annual Maine Maple Sunday all across the state this weekend.

“It’s kind of turning into a tale of two seasons,” said Kathy Hopkins, a maple syrup educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Skowhegan. “From here south in the state, people have already made syrup. I talked to a couple this morning who said they’ve already made two-thirds of a crop, so that’s pretty good.

“When we got all that snow and the cold, cold weather, everything came to a stop, but today is just about perfect for the sap to run.”

Ideal conditions for the sap to run, be collected and boiled down to make syrup happens when it’s below freezing at night and into the 40s during the day.

Sugarbushes north of Skowhegan in Somerset County have not really started to produce sap yet, said Hopkins, who joined Gov. Paul LePage to tap trees at the Blaine House Tuesday morning.

“I think Sunday will be great. It’s the 35th anniversary of Maine Maple Sunday, and I think a lot of sugar makers are planning a few extra events to commemorate that,” she said. “I think the next few days will be perfect, and I’m imagining that everybody will be boiling.”

Shelley Bacon, at Bacon Farm Maple Products on Pond Road in Sidney, predicted a bountiful harvest of sap this season.

“Everything started up again here today,” Bacon said Tuesday. “It’s been shut down for a few days because it’s been so cold. Nothing’s been running. It was running in February as well. To date we have made more this year than we had all last year. It started and then we’ve had some snowstorms and it’s been really cold, so it shut the trees down; but it looks like we’ve got a good 10 to 15 day forecast of warm-cold cycles, which is what we need.”

Like many other sugar houses across the region, the Bacon Farm will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for maple treats and tours of the evaporator. It will have ice cream with maple syrup drizzled over the top, maple candy, popcorn, whoopie pies and jams.

For a list of producers participating in Maine Maple Sunday activities, go to the Maine Maple Producers website.

Maine Maple Sunday is always the fourth Sunday in March, although some sugar houses are offering events for both Saturday and Sunday.

The idea for a yearly event was hatched 35 years ago by Jack Steeves and other sugar makers at Steeves’ Strawberry Hill Farms on Rowe Road in Skowhegan. In February 1983, eight Maine maple syrup producers gathered in the Steeveses’ living room to designate one day for maple syrup lovers to visit the state’s many sugar houses, smell the vapor of the evaporators and see how sap is transformed into sweet, golden syrup and maple candy.

The group decided that Maine Maple Sunday, to be celebrated this Sunday, would be the fourth Sunday in March.

Elsewhere in Somerset County, Sarah MacMichael, of Athens, continued the tale of two seasons theme, saying the sap has been running off and on.

“We have had a few days we didn’t have to collect. First it wasn’t cold enough at night and then it wasn’t warm enough during the day,” she said. “Gotta love Mother Nature.”

Conditions were reported being much the same in Franklin County as they have been in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Brandon Plaisted, at Plaisted Farm Maple Products on Borough Road in Jay, said the sap run has been up and down.

“It was running really good, then we got quite a bit of snow and it slowed down some, but now it’s already starting to run again,” Plaisted said. “All the snow will help prolong the season — as long as the temperatures cooperate.”

He said their farm will be open to the public Sunday for boiling demonstrations and free samples of ice cream with syrup, coffee, donuts and hot chocolate.

The Skowhegan Maple Festival, now in its 12th year, begins Friday with free tours at art teacher Iver Lofving’s Chez Lonndorf, a sugarhouse in the woods on Burrill Hill in Skowhegan, built in 2002 by vocational and technical students at Skowhegan Area High School. Lofving said the sugarhouse’s name is a mix of French, Swedish and German — all family links — meaning “at maple village.”

Celebrating Somerset County’s status as the top maple producing county in the United States, the festival continues Saturday and Sunday, said Mary Haley, project coordinator at Main Street Skowhegan.

A staple of the festival is the Saturday morning pancake breakfast on tap for 7 to 10 a.m. at Tewksbury Hall behind the Federated Church on Island Avenue, featuring locally sourced foods, including Somerset County maple syrup.

Saturday will include many activities downtown after breakfast, including seedling planting and a maple leaf scavenger hunt, with leaves colored and decorated by students at North Elementary School in Skowhegan.

New to the Maple Festival this year is a live chain saw carving demonstration by Josh Landry, a meet-and-greet with local law enforcement — including a State Police dog unit — and the free Sap and Syrup Shuttle provided by Poland’s Bus Service.

“We’re really excited to be able to provide the Sap and Syrup Shuttle this year,” Haley said. “It’ll loop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from downtown, to Tessiers Farm, and up to Smith Brothers. Now anyone can visit Skowhegan’s sap houses and see what makes Somerset County really special.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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