Almost seven months after Maine Maple Weekend was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it finally happened this weekend at locations in central and western Maine.

More than two dozen maple farms and sugarhouses participated in the two-day event.

Back in March, a week before Maine Maple Weekend, the Maine Maple Producers Association announced it was canceling the statewide event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For a majority of farmers and maple producers in central and western Maine, Maine Maple Sunday is the busiest day of the year. The maple industry brings $27 million a year into the state, and at least half of that is from selling syrup and other maple products on Maine Maple Weekend.

The Maine Maple Producers later announced it was moving the weekend to October to coincide with the Fall in Love with Maple North American Maple Tour.

Despite the rescheduling, some farm and sugarhouse owners said they were still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Hope Becker, who runs Russell Farm Bakery & Maple Products in Poland, said the long hiatus and ongoing pandemic “had a pretty big effect on us.”

“Normally, we do a lot of stuff on Maine Maple Sunday, and most of the stuff we sell is at the Cumberland Fair,” Becker said. “Since the fair and Maine Maple Sunday didn’t happen this year, it’s been difficult.”

She said she and her husband, Kurt, are considering extending Maine Maple Weekend at their farm until next weekend.

“We’ll see how many customers we get on Sunday,” Becker said. “I can’t complain, because we’ve had a reasonable amount of customers. It’s just a lot less than if we had held it in March.”

Mario Blais, owner of Blais Maple Syrup in Greene, had a similar outlook, but felt confident that if he were to hold a Maine Maple Weekend event in October next year, “more people would know about it.”

“I feel like people have been receptive to what’s going on, but people aren’t accustomed to us doing things in October,” Blais said. “They’re used to March. I think going forward, if we have to postpone Maine Maple Weekend again, it’ll become normal.”

On Friday and Saturday, Blais said that while he and his family did not have sap boiling or the smell of syrup being made, people still visited to “come into the sugar shack so we could show them the process of how we make it.”

“Some people drove by us, stopped in and said they didn’t even realize Maine Maple Weekend was being held,” Blais said. “All in all, I think people were just happy to see our equipment out and running.”

In Sabattus, the owners of Maple Rush Sugar House in Sabattus said she had a different experience.

“We did almost as much business this weekend as we usually do in March,” said Courtney Wheeler, whose family owns and operates Maple Rush. “When the weekend in March was canceled, it cut into about 80% of the income we’d expect. We did about as well as we usually do, which was surprising.”

Wheeler said that her brother, Jordan Davis, is the owner, and they, along with Wheeler’s husband, Randy, her mother, Stacy, and her father, Scott, have been operating the farm since 2017.

This was their third year participating in Maine Maple Weekend, and each year, Wheeler said, they try and make it a little bit bigger than the year before.

She said the weather worked in their favor Friday and Saturday, and many of the people visiting were from out of state.

“We had people from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, all over the place,” Wheeler said. “We even had people from Australia who showed up.”

Wheeler said the lack of snow also benefited her family’s sugarhouse.

“Maine isn’t that pretty in March, between the mud and snow and the barren trees,” Wheeler said. “Today, we had families bringing out blankets to set up and have picnics and kids running around on our land. I think having this in October helped us more than hurt.”

It was so successful, Wheeler said, that her family is considering holding a maple event every October.

“Once it goes back to March, we’ll be able to get our usual business,” she said, “but we did so well in October that it seems worth it to do fall events.”


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