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Get ready for The Big 400 Maple Festival on March 21

Big-400-logoIt’s maple syrup time.

The communities of The Big 400 are teaming up to celebrate maple syruping in southern Michigan with a festival on Saturday, March 21. The festival includes pancake breakfasts, tours of tapping areas and the syruping process, the release of a local maple wine, and lots of good things to eat.

Pancake Breakfast
Chelsea Alehouse – On March 21, the menu includes pancakes and bacon with real maple syrup from 8 a.m.-11:30 a.m. for $8. Proceeds from the breakfast go to support The Big 400 in guiding tourists to our region.

Maple Tours and Interpretation
Eddy Discovery Center, Waterloo Recreation Area, 17030 Bush Road in Sylvan Township from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Old-time Maple Sugar Festival. It’s time for that traditional rite of spring – tapping maple trees. Enjoy a pancake breakfast at the Chelsea Alehouse, and then come on over to the Discovery Center to learn how maple syrup is made.

Guided walks will show various methods of collecting sap and how it is boiled down to make syrup.  Watch a film about the process and see actual tools for making syrup on display from the Waterloo Farm Museum. Maple products will be available for purchase. Contact the Discovery Center at 475-3170 for more information. Cost is free.

Dahlem Environmental Education Center, 7117 South Jackson Road, Jackson. It’s spring and that means maple.  It’s time to tap the trees and boil the sap down to those sweet confections we love so well!  Bring the family out to learn the history of sugaring and how maple syrup is made.  Hands-on activities make this a great program for young children.  FEE:  $3/member; $5/non-member.  Guided walks head out every 20 minutes.  Call 517-782-3453 to reserve your spot.

McLennan Maple Syrup, 10950 M-52, Manchester. Tours on Saturdays in March, every two hours beginning at 9 a.m. Take a look at the sugar shack process, handle tools and supplies, learn about tapping the trees, and take part in maple-related activities such as coloring and crafts. Taste testing of maple candy and McLennan maple syrup on ice cream. Local maple syrup is available for purchase. Tours are $5 per person. Call 734-428-7005 for more information.

Hudson Mills Metropark, Hudson Mills Metropark Activity Center near Dexter, 8801 N. Territorial Road, throughout March at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. See how to tap trees, collect sap and boil it into maple syrup. Call 426-8211 to make a reservation for the guided tours at $3 per child and $5 per adult. Beginning on March 8, an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast, with real maple syrup, will be served at the Activity Center on the days the tours are offered. Pancake breakfast is $3.50 per child $5.50 per adult. Tap your own tree at the park and collect your own sap by renting a seasonal tree for $5.

Maple Wine Release
Sandhill Crane Vineyards, 4724 Walz Road, Jackson, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. A highlight of the Maple Festival is the release of the current vintage Sandhill Crane Vineyards’ limited edition dessert wine made with local maple sap and syrup.

This year the winery has done something very special – aged the current maple wine vintage in bourbon barrels from the Grand Traverse Distillery. The result is a rich fortified wine with hints of oak and bourbon. This limited-edition wine carries its own special name, Annie’s Mapleshine. Light and not too sweet, Annie’s Mapleshine pairs beautifully with light desserts, sweet cheeses, and the winery’s famous Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Free admission, wine tasting is $5. For more information call 517-764-0679

Wine and Chocolate Pairing Workshop
Also part of the Maple Festival, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, 1:30 p.m. is teaming up with local chocolate producer, Mindo Chocolate for a wine and chocolate pairing workshop.

A representative from Mindo Chocolate will talk about their farms in South America and their processing facility in Dexter. You’ll see raw cocoa beans, cocoa pods, cocoa fruit syrup, and a metate (traditional stone grinder) to show the entire process from farm to chocolate bar.

A highlight of the pairing workshop will be the newly released maple wine (Annie’s Mapleshine) paired with Mindo’s special Salted Maple and Pecan chocolate bar. The pairing workshop includes 5 different Mindo chocolate and Sandhill wine tastings. A range of Mindo products will be available for purchase that day.

The cost of this event is $20 per person. Seating is limited so reservations are recommended. Call 517-764-0679.

Maple dishes and specials at local restaurants and businesses
A number of local restaurants will be featuring dishes (and beverages) made with real maple syrup:

Terry B’s Restaurant and Bar, 7954 Ann Arbor St.
redbrick kitchen and bar, 8093 Main St.
The Dexter Mill, 3515 Central St., has maple syrup for sale

Cleary’s Pub, 133 S. Main St. Maple-Glazed Georgian Bay Ruby Red Trout and Spiced Maple Bourbon Martini
Common Grill, 112 S. Main St. Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Chelsea Alehouse, 420 N. Main St. Maple Porter
The Garden Mill, 110 South Main St. is offering discounts on maple-related products

Theresa’s Angels Coffee and Tea House, 132 North Main St. Maple Latte, Maple Frosted Sugar Cookies, Maple Cinnamon Muffins

Sandhill Crane Vineyards – a wide range of maple entrees, salads, maple wine cocktails, maple coffee drinks, and desserts

About The Big 400
The mission of the Big 400 is to prepare and execute plans which stimulate commerce in the communities sharing a common border local and state public lands, while concurrently partnering with the stewards of these public lands to promote and encourage their use and preservation.

Neighboring communities of Dexter, Manchester, Stockbridge, Pinckney and East Jackson County were invited to join the team along with the Pinckney Recreation Area. Additionally, the Convention and Visitors Bureaus of Jackson County, Ann Arbor Area, and Ypsilanti joined the effort. The committee currently represents 4 counties, 4 municipalities, 3 Convention and Visitors Bureaus, 2 State Recreation Areas, land and nature conservancies. It encompasses a 20 mile by 20 mile area, hence the term “Big 400.”

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