First Rite of Spring in McHenry County, Illinois:
Festival of the Sugar Maples March 5, 6, 12 &13
In March, it's not always obvious that winter is winding down across northern Illinois, but maple trees know the season is changing. Their sap is rising, and that means it's time to make maple syrup. Commercially, Canada produces 90 per cent of the world's maple syrup, and it's such a precious commodity that criminals hijack semi-loads of it.
But you don't need to cross the border to see how it's made! Just an hour's drive northwest of Chicago, the McHenry County Conservation District's annual "Festival of the Sugar Maples" makes it possible for you and your family to discover how it's done. The Festival takes place at the Coral Woods Conservation Area near Marengo over two weekends, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday March 5-6 and 12-13.
One hour tours leave every 15 minutes and feature the cultural history of the century-old maple grove and stories of how maple syrup was made hundreds of years ago. Discover how maple trees produce sap each spring and how the sap is collected and boiled down into syrup in the evaporator house. (If you wonder why real maple syrup is so dear, it's because it takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup!) End your tour with a taste of fresh Coral Woods maple syrup, some hot cocoa and sweet maple treats!
The Festival is free and registration is not required. All ages are welcome, but children ages 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Patrons are urged to dress for the weather and to wear shoes appropriate for hiking to the maple grove (about ½ mile, or six blocks).
Want some pancakes with your syrup? Fuel-up before the Festival at the Union Lions Club Annual Pancake Breakfast from 7 a.m. to noon, Sunday, March 6, at Smithwood BBQ Grill, 6517 Main Street, Union. Breakfast is $6 per adult and $3 per child.
School field trips are available March 7-11 and 14-17, by reservation for Kindergarten through fifth grade classes. For details, phone the McHenry County Conservation District at 815-479-5779.
For more information and directions to the Coral Woods Conservation Area, go to: www.mccdistrict.org.
Plan an Overnight in Woodstock and McHenry County
McHenry County is just an hour's drive northwest of Chicago, bordered on the north by Wisconsin, and on the south by I-90. The Fox River winds down from the Chain of Lakes through the towns on the eastern side of the county, while country roads meander the western side. For visitor information, including links to the above attractions, plus lodging and dining options throughout McHenry County, go to www.VisitMcHenryCounty.com or phone 815-893-6280. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.