BERLIN - There was a lot a whole lot of pancake flipping and maple syrup pouring at the New Britain Youth Museum at Hungerford Park Saturday.
Many ventured out to the center’s Pancake Breakfast and Maple Sugaring Weekend to try natural maple syrup and see all the center has to offer.
“We’ve been hosting it for decades. … It’s a March staple for us,” said Donna Veach, the development and marketing director for the New Britain Youth Museum at Hungerford Park and New Britain Youth Museum.
“There’s nothing like pure maple syrup from New England,” she added. “It’s like liquid gold.”
Visitors got all the pancakes they could eat, along with sausages, juice and coffee. People could try a variety of syrups, including plain, blueberry, cranberry and store-bought.
“It’s a nice program and everyone from town gets together,” said Bo Wicklund, a volunteer from the Interact Club at Berlin High School. It was her fourth year volunteering. “There’s a lot of different aspects from the breakfast to the sugaring and crafts.”
Richard Rease, who is on the board of directors, was also making pancakes.
“I’m an experienced pancake maker,” he said. Rease also makes pancakes for the Kiwanis Club of Berlin’s pancake breakfast.
There was also the opportunity to see how maple syrup is made from start to finish.
“There’s an educational component to this breakfast,” Veach said. Saturday just happened to be a perfect day for maple sugaring, as “it’s very dependent on what Mother Nature wants to do.”
Just outside the dining area, in the maple grove, Adam Marzi, a board member, was demonstrating how to get sap from a maple tree.
“It’s a fairly easy process but it’s time consuming,” Marzi said.
The best time for maple sugaring is from the end of February to the middle of March, when the weather is in the high 30s, low 40s. It needs to be just warm enough so the sap will flow, but not so warm that the trees start to bud.
“Only a couple of weeks a year are good for maple sugaring,” Marzi said. “Today is perfect - a picture perfect day for maple sugaring.”
The first step is to drill a hole in the maple tree. Then, to insert a spile, which is what the sap flows out of. After gathering up several gallons of the sap, the final step is to boil the sap down into syrup, which can take several hours. Forty gallons of sap makes about one gallon of syrup.
Though it takes some time and a lot of sap to make even a little bit of syrup, Marzi said it’s a fun pastime.
“It’s getting back outside. It’s like a natural treat you get once a year. It’s an old-time craft that keeps going,” he said.
Visitors scarfing down breakfast inside agreed.
“I thought it was very good. They do a good job,” said Bob Mittica after he finished his pancakes. He said the blueberry syrup was his favorite and that he’s been attending the breakfast for years. He said he enjoys the center’s pasta dinners as well.
“When I come here I know I’m going to get a good meal,” he said.
The center also had crafts, interactive activities for the kids, barnyard animals and exhibits on animals and nature.
“It’s a hidden gem in Berlin. Even though we’ve been here a long time, we’re trying to make ourselves more visible,” Veach said.
The pancake breakfast is one of its more popular events, with as many as 300 people coming one year. Its pasta dinners and paint nights draw a crowd as well.
The nature center is also hosting the “Owl Prowl” on March 16 and a painting night on March 29. Its popular Easter Eggstravaganza is on April 20. Veach added that the center is also working on a new interactive playground, paid for by a grant that the nature center received.
For information call 860-827-9064 or visit newbritainyouthmuseum.org
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at email@example.com.