January 26, 2011

Touch of Nature to host maple festival, breakfast

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The annual Maple Syrupin’ pancake breakfast and workshop at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center this spring will evolve into the Maple Festival and Pancake Breakfast.

With two sessions set for Feb. 20 and 26, it still offers a sausage and pancake breakfast with authentic maple syrup and an interesting workshop. But, with a new format, the festival that has traditionally had a waiting list now offers unlimited advance registrations.

Rather than all participants proceeding together throughout the workshops, the festival will offer a series of stations you can visit in any order, at your leisure. You’ll learn about tree identification, tree physiology (including why there is sugar in the trees and why sap flows when it does), how to tape the trees and techniques used to boil down the sap into syrup. You’ll also discover the legends and lore surrounding the harvest of maple syrup, how Native Americans and early settlers harvested the sweet substance, the significance of the harvest and much more.

The Feb. 20 Maple Festival is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the Feb. 26 festival is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can enjoy pancakes, sausage and homemade syrup for the first three hours of each four-hour event.

“In the past we’ve had a cap on the number of people who may attend each session and it’s usually a sell-out; but with this new format, people may come and go as they like, enjoying a delicious meal with homemade maple syrup and seeing for themselves what the Maple Festival is all about and what makes this time of year so special!” said Kate Hellgren, environmental education program coordinator at Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

The cost for the workshop and meal is $15 for those ages 15 and older or $8 for children ages 5-14. Children younger than 5 can participate at no cost. All participants must register in advance. The registration deadline is 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 for the Feb. 20 workshop and 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 for the Feb. 26 workshop.

To register, or for more information, call 618/453-1121.