ATHOL - It's time to fire up the evaporator and break out the jack wax recipe. Town of Thurman residents are ready for a month-long celebration of maple syrup: making it, eating it and sharing it with visitors.
The town of Thurman kicks off the maple sugaring season with Thurman Maple Days - March 12-13 - and will host public tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at three of the town's commercial sugaring operations during the statewide Maple Weekend events - March 19-20 and March 26-27.
It is rare to find such a high concentration of maple producers in one town in the Adirondack Park. All three commercial operations in Warren County are located in the town of Thurman: Valley Road Maple, Adirondack Gold Maple Farm and the Toad Hill Maple Farm. They rely heavily on Maple Weekends each year to draw attention to their products and stay in business. And for the past several years, they've banded together to offer a one-of-a-kind, month-long maple festival.
"It's really helped us a lot," said Randy Galusha, of Toad Hill Maple Farm, the largest maple producer in Warren County. "It's what's allowed us to expand our business. It has created quite a lot of demand."
Thanks to the increase in business generated by the Maple Weekends, the Galusha family was able to invest in their operations and build a new state-of-the-art sugarhouse in time for this season. At four times the size of their old sugarhouse, the 4,000-square-foot facility was made of timber harvested on their land. Inside, a reverse-osmosis system takes 75 percent of the water out of the maple sap before it is boiled in the new wood-fired Vortex evaporator, which re-uses the steam to help boil more sap. The Galushas were able to invest in this energy-efficient equipment with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
For now, Randy Galusha is making final preparations to his equipment before the spring weather arrives.
"Then it's time to wait for Mother Nature to cooperate," he said.
The highlight of the season is the Annual Maple Sugar Party - better known as the Jack Wax Party - which starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at the Thurman Town Hall, 311 Athol Road in Athol. For more than 50 years, this event has helped raise money for the American Cancer Society, and this is the social event of the season for the town of Thurman, with an all-you-can eat buffet and entertainment by local musicians. And don't forget the jack wax. Jack wax is also known as sugar on snow or maple on snow. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids 6-11 and free for kids 5 and under.
"Jack wax is maple syrup boiled to a certain temperature, and it is poured on snow," said Rebecca Hitchcock, a town of Thurman councilwoman who has been helping organize the Annual Maple Sugar Party.
Four venues offer plenty of activities during Thurman Maple Days on March 12 and 13. People can see high-tech and traditional wood-fired evaporators in action, plus tapping and boiling demonstrations, at three sugarhouses, which will open their doors to the public with free tours and maple tasting. Plus, Martin's Lumber (280 Valley Road) will give demonstrations of its sawmill operations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
But the proof is in the eating. Visitors can partake in a traditional pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. March 12 at Valley Road Maple.
Learn more about the Thurman Maple Days online at www.thurman-ny.com and the New York Maple Weekends at www.mapleweekend.com.