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Sugar Camp to deliver sweet tasting memories

Date: 2/23/2009

GREATER SPRINGFIELD Historians at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will demonstrate maple-sugar making at the Village's own working "Sugar Camp" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays during the first three March weekends March 7 and 8, 14 and 15 and 21 and 22.

Visitors can see the entire sugar-making process, from tapping the trees to "sugaring off," and will learn why maple sugar was more commonly used than maple syrup in early New England. Interpreters will also cook period foods made with maple products by the hearth at the Village's Freeman Farm.

OSV will also present the importance of maple in the Native American culture. Algonkian historian Marge Bruchac portraying an "Indian Doctress" will present "Sogalikiosos: Maple Sugar Moon Stories" and "Fur Mittens and Wooden Snowshoes: Algonkian Winter Fashions" on each day except March 14.

Early New England farm families often tapped more than 100 trees for a yield of 400 pounds of sugar each season. The children's favorite taste treat maple snow was actually the result of testing the syrup's consistency before granulating it for storage, according to OSV historians.

During the 1830s, white sugar, or cane sugar, was imported from the West Indies and was more expensive than home-made maple sugar. At OSV, maple sap is boiled in large iron kettles suspended over an open outdoor fire. Boiling the maple sap required a high heat and lots of wood. Because forests had been cleared for farm land, wood was often scarce and expensive, so early New Englanders used all kinds of scrap wood to stoke the sugar camp fires broken boards, shingles, old fence posts whatever could be found.

For many at Old Sturbridge Village the first whiff of spring isn't the aroma spring flowers, it's the smell of wood smoke and maple syrup a sure sign that the sap is rising and spring is on the way.

OSV celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $7 for children ages three to seven. Children under the age of three are free.

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