Bright sunshine but cool temperatures couldn’t keep the big crowds away on the first day of the Maple Weekend on Saturday.
The 16th annual celebration of all things maple will continue March 26 and 27 at locations across the state.
At Grottoli’s Maple on Ritchie Road in Middle Granville the crowds ebbed and flowed like the tide at times, filling the sap house and the pancake breakfast.
Laurie Grottoli said patrons arrived early, but not quite as early as in years past when a few hearty soles came knocking well before the scheduled 10 a.m. start.
By 10 a.m. many pancakes had been eaten by a crowd ranging from local regulars to far flung tourists.
Mike Grottoli said Saturday the steady crowds surprised him a bit, what with the cost of gas edging its way to $4 per gallon. Olivia, David and David Rowley arrived at Grottoli’s from Menands, planning to make a number of stops in a big loop plotted to take them back to Albany County.
After putting in a full week getting the sugarhouse ready to go for the ceremonial first tapping, Grottoli said it was a relief to get down to the business of making syrup and showing people around his sugarhouse.
The second Maple Weekend runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on March 26 and 27 when sugarhouses across, not just Granville, but the state will throw open the doors and invite the curious in for tours and samples of the various fruits of the sugarbush.
“We come over every year,” Larry Crandall and Gabrielle Carpenter said during their stop at Rathbun’s. Carpenter said she was fascinated by the sugaring process and the tradition behind it. “These guys are real heroes for keeping this kind of business alive,” she said.
With weather forecast to do a textbook imitation of perfect sugaring weather, Grottoli said he was cautiously optimistic regarding the rest of the season after last year’s promise turned to disappointment.
“It started to run for us really good, but it didn’t run today,” he said.
During open house weekends Grottoli’s hosts a pancake and sausage breakfast. So part of the work has been relocating the breakfast area into the sugarhouse from its former location up the driveway out back. Samples of everything from maple candy to fresh hot syrup are available at most sugarhouse locations.
While Rathbun’s is a year-round breakfast restaurant, during maple weekends horse drawn wagon rides are available as well as tours of the sugarhouse.
All of those planning to boil down the water-like sap to the amber goodness of maple syrup are hoping to see a gradual spring with temperatures in the middle-40s and overnight lows dipping back below freezing.
In any year the danger always exists that temperatures will rise too high and stay that way effectively cutting off good sap flow and even causing the maple trees to begin budding out – another reason sugarers will stop making syrup as the emergence of buds is said to effect the flavor of the sap.
Find the official Maple Weekend site at www.mapleweekend.com.
Box: More than 110 sugarhouses dot the landscape of the Empire State, here are a few within easy reach of Granville and within Washington County.
Grottoli’s Maple, 91 Ritchie Road, Middle Granville
Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House, 1208 Hatch Hill Road, North Granville
Dry Brook Sugarhouse, 432 Chambers Road, Salem
Wild Hill Maple, 366 Carney Cassidy Road, Salem
Sugar Mill Farm, 2469 Route 29, Greenwich
Highland Maple Farm, 954 Coach Road, Argyle
Mapleland Farms, 550 Bunker Hill Road, Argyle
Rascher’s Sugarhouse, 347 Perry Hill Road, Shushan