Virginia is for lovers and lovers enjoy the sweet maple syrup produced in Highland County, VA! During the 58th Annual Highland Maple Festival, you can taste the sweetness of maple products, watch the process involved in making maple syrup, and be entertained too.
During the second and third weekends in March 2016, seven different “maple sugar camps” will open their doors to explain and demonstrate how maple syrup is made. The participating producers are Eagle Sugar Camp, Laurel Fork Sap Suckers, Puffenbarger’s Sugar Orchard, Rexrode’s Sugar Orchard, Southernmost Maple Products, Sugar Tree Country Store and Sugar House, and Duff’s Sugar House.
Arriving from the Staunton area via US Rt. 250, the first stop would be Sugar Tree Country Store. While antique maple producing tools are on display, this operation uses a modern reverse osmosis concentrator and oil-fired evaporator. What a great contrast of the old and new operation! Foods and country store merchandise are available at the store to enjoy while enjoying the guided tour of the maple syrup production.
Turning north on Rt. 654, you will find Eagle Sugar Camp in the little village of Doe Hill. The Eagle family has been producing syrup for more than 200 years and still use open pan wood-fired evaporators. Local honey, buckwheat, cornmeal, and baked goods will be available along with locally made arts and crafts.
Heading west, you will find Puffenbarger’s and Rexrode’s Sugar Orchards. Puffenbarger’s have rebuilt their operation after a devastating fire in 2008. They employ miles of plastic tubing in the sugar water collection process. Rexrode’s Sugar Orchard feature a stand of maple trees that are over 200 years old and still producing lots of the sweet stuff! Get some real VA country ham, chili dogs, and BBQ sandwiches to give you more energy to continue the maple tour.
Southwest and up the hill, along Rt. 250, Laurel Fork Sap Suckers await you arrival. This is the highest point of any of the sugar camps in the county. They offer a ¾ mile long loop trail through the woods that includes activities for the kids. Tree taping demonstrations and guided tours are available each Saturday of the festival.
Travel south on Rt. 600 to find Duff’s Sugar House. Duff’s is a small family operation where the trees are still “opened” by hand and the sugar water is collected in buckets. This operation shows the old ways of processing maple sugar that has continued for hundreds of years.
Southernmost Maple Products funnels sugar water into the only “piggy-back” evaporator to be found in the southern states. You can see a different way of syrup production using this method of heating and evaporation. Maple pit-cooked BBQ, pork skins, and maple doughnuts can be found in the rustic country store on site.
In addition to the maple production demos, you can find a unique gift or craft item from the festival Arts & Craft Show that runs from 8:30 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 8:30 am to 4 m on Sundays during the event. Over 150 artisans and crafters will be showing and selling their creations at seven different venues around the town of Monterey.
This part of Virginia is home to some great Bluegrass music and it will be one of the featured entertainment offerings during the festival. Don’t miss “Southern Rail Express” for some toe tapping music. Also, “Mountain Heritage Cloggers” and “Little Switzerland Cloggers” will be providing some great down-home country dance entertainment. There is an admission fee of just $3 for parking, a tour map, entrance to the Arts & Craft Show, and to enjoy the entertainment.
Yes Virginia, there is real maple syrup made in the highlands of the Commonwealth! Come for the festival and take some VA natural sweetness home with you.