The weather hasn’t cooperated, but that didn’t stop maple syrup producers from giving visitors wagon rides, demonstrations and samples during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

Tony Couture of Maple Valley Farm in Jay said he has made 200 gallons of syrup this year with most of it made in early February. Sap hasn’t run much so far in March, according to Couture.

However, he said, “The coming week is going to be excellent with 40-degree days and 20-degree nights. We’ll be making up for lost time.”

Visitor Raeleigh Ricci, 8, of Livermore Falls said she liked maple taffy better than ice cream with maple syrup on it. 

The Parisi family of New Sharon was making the rounds of sap houses during their first Maine Maple Sunday. Chad, Patricia and son Alex ate breakfast at Sunrise Maple Farm in Wilton. After stopping at Maple Valley, they were headed to the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. 

At the Norlands, Raymond Fleury stood in the small sap house. Wood burned in a bricked-in fire box to heat two large pans on top. Each pan held 40 to 50 gallons of sap, which will make about one gallon of syrup.

“It’s been a horrible year — one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Fleury said. “Yesterday, I collected 3 gallons of sap from 85 taps. On a good day, one tree should yield that amount.

“Traditionally, farmers tapped five to 12 trees,” he said. “Sap was boiled in the kitchen or over an open kettle in the woods. Most was boiled down to sugar. Maple and brown sugar were cheaper than white sugar, which was only used for special occasions.”

Chelsey Kall of Auburn was enjoying Maine Maple Sunday for the first time. Her family moved from Wyoming two years ago. She chose to visit the Norlands to learn a little bit of the area’s history.

“I’m new to all this East Coast stuff,” Kall said. “It’s pretty cool.” 

At Long Drive Acres Maple Farm in Wilton, David Leavitt is building a new sap house. Brandon Plaisted of Plaisted Farm Maple Products in Jay is boiling down Leavitt’s sap this year.

“Between Brandon and I, we got 700 gallons of sap from about 4,000 taps yesterday,” Leavitt said. “On a good day, we’d get 4,000 to 5,000.” 

David and Kristi Leavitt demonstrated how maple cream is made. Kristi said the syrup is heated to 234 degrees, then rapidly cooled to about 70 degrees. The cooled syrup is quite thick and contains large crystals. It is poured into a machine. A gear pump crushes the sugar crystals. As the syrup circulates, it starts changing color from dark brown to pale gold. It loses its shine as it gets creamier.

Visitors were given samples. Some said it tasted similar to maple candy but without the granular texture. 

At Day Mountain Maple in Strong, the concrete floor features a pit in front of the wood box. Wood can be added without having to bend over as much.

Collin Neil said he taps about 15 percent red maples and the rest are sugar maples. They both produce the same amount of sap, but red maple sap is not as sweet, he said.

Curtis Tyler of New Sharon brought his 1-year old son.

“We’ve just started tapping trees ourselves,” Tyler said. “I wanted to get some ideas.” 

At Maple Hill Farm in Farmington, employee David Currier said it’s been a rough year. There is still 4 feet of snow around some trees.

Fourteen-month-old Stephen Swain sampled cookies made with maple syrup. As soon as he saw some ice cream covered with maple syrup, he said, “Mmm.”

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During the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday, Douglas Laliberte of Owls Head holds his sons, Owen and Wyatt, during a visit to Maple Hill Farm in Farmington.

Curtis Tyler of New Sharon feeds vanilla ice cream with maple syrup to son Avery Tyler while visiting Day Mountain Maple in Strong during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

Bryce Gopsill of Farmington enjoys vanilla ice cream with maple syrup at Long Drive Acres Maple Farm in Wilton. Several maple syrup producers opened their sap houses to the public during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

Nevaeh Kall of Auburn eats maple cotton candy while visiting the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

Raeleigh Ricci of Livermore Falls tries maple taffy at Maple Valley Farm in Jay during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday. She said she liked the taffy better than vanilla ice cream with maple syrup on top.

David Tracy of Maple Hill Farm in Farmington bottles warm syrup during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

David Leavitt fills a container with freshly made maple cream during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday. He is in the process of building a bigger sap house at Long Drive Acres Maple Farm in Wilton and not boiling sap himself this year. Many visitors stopped by to see the progress made so far, and to enjoy samples and buy products. 

During the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday, David and Kristi Leavitt of Long Drive Acres Maple Farm in Wilton showed how maple cream is made. As the syrup circulates, the crystals are broken down, causing it to thicken and become lighter in color.

Long Drive Acres Maple Farm gave demonstrations and explained how maple syrup is made during the 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday. Kristi Leavitt looks on as David Leavitt pours maple syrup into a machine to make maple cream. A gear pump crushes the sugar crystals in the syrup. The longer it runs, the smoother the cream.

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