A demonstration of sap being boiled down to make maple syrup. Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR.

Tree Sap Turned Treat: Maple Syrup Festival Shows off Md. Harvest

Move over, Vermont—maple syrup is being produced right here in the Bay watershed, in the woodlands of Maryland. You can see the entire process, from tapping trees to tasting pancakes, at the Maple Syrup Festival in Frederick County, Md. It’s been held annually for more than 50 years.

Cunningham Falls State Park, half an hour north of Frederick, is home to the largest cascading waterfall in Maryland. For two weekends in March (11-12 and 18-19), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold the Maple Syrup Festival at the state park.

Visitors can take a hayride through the park’s Maple Grove to see how park rangers collect sap. They can gather around the “Sugar Shack” to watch traditional sugar makers boil sap into syrup. The reward is a hot pancake and sausage breakfast with Maryland-made syrup (for purchase).

The syrup and other maple treats have typically come from the northwesternmost parts of the state. S&S Maple Camp in Corriganville, Allegany County is the state’s largest maple syrup producer. In business since 1968, the third-generation Shinholt family taps more than 5,000 trees for one season of syrup production. And according to Visit Frederick, owner Leo Shinholt finds the first run is always the sweetest.

All the learning and syrup tasting at the festival comes with live bluegrass music to keep the mood light. And for extra silliness, organizers stage a “great pancake race” in which competitors try to flip a pancake while trying to outrun each other.

The Maple Syrup Festival is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Friends of Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks. A $5 per person donation is requested upon entry. The event runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 11, 12, 18 and 19. Syrup-making demonstrations will be held every hour on the hour.

For more information on Cunningham Falls State Park, call 301-271-7574.

-Meg Walburn Viviano