Festival organizers hope maple syrup-seekers will cover the hills of Brown County State Park and drizzle into Nashville this weekend.
The National Maple Syrup Festival is back in Brown County for a second year — though this time, most events will be in the state park.
Last year, 4,000 visitors attended events in downtown Nashville and the park.
“We recognized that we don’t have the manpower, and there’s not quite the draw when it’s that dispersed,” said Jane Ellis, executive director of the Brown County Visitors and Convention Bureau.
The Brown County High School Student Council’s pancake breakfast, featuring the high-flying flipping of Chris Cakes, remains in town. It will be served Saturday and Sunday mornings, March 5 and 6 from 8 to 11 a.m. at the high school.
After filling up on pancakes, visitors can head to the park either by jumping on the Maple Motorcoach at the Visitors Center downtown or by driving themselves. Festival organizers are encouraging people to park in town — to save money on the park gate fee and to have a reason to explore town when they’re finished at the festival.
At the Lower Shelter House near the park’s pool, festival guests will be greeted with fun. There will be a Sticky-Fingered Maple Syrup Challenge Course, food trucks, a beer and wine garden and live music by local band the Boxcar Annies, and a Maple Market selling maple syrup and maple merchandise.
The popular Native American and French Colonial maple syrup demonstrations also will return this year, and children can test their sugar making skills during Sugaring for Small Folks at the Lower Shelter.
The visitors and convention bureau will have a tent where visitors can get more information on what to do in town after their festival visit.
“We’re not a two-day festival yet. That’s going to take some time to build. We figure probably about two hours a person out at the park,” Ellis said. “Then, they’ll be coming back into town looking for things to do.”
One lesson learned from last year’s festival was to have enough syrup, Ellis said.This year, guests will be able to buy “flights” of syrup from area producers to taste for $10. Rawhide Ranch staff will help tasters brand a piece of wood that will be their serving tray. Each flight will have enough syrup for a family of four to enjoy.
Last year, the Dutch Oven Diva cooked over a fire and gave away samples of dishes using maple syrup. This year, the Boy Scouts will do Dutch oven cooking and sell the food they cook as a fundraiser, Ellis said.
Based on the response to last year’s festival, several syrup educational sessions will take place downstairs in the Lower Shelter.
The free Sap School will take place every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Visitors will learn from local sugaring experts about everything from the history of maple syrup to running a commercial sugar bush.
“Last year we had a couple of people at a great big, huge caldron that were boiling the sap (near the courthouse). They almost went hoarse answering the same questions over and over again,” Ellis said.
Another popular attraction — interpretive hikes — will return this year with a bigger presence. They will leave every hour beginning at 9 Saturday and Sunday and include tree identification, tree tapping and sap tasting.
The hope this year is to increase festival attendance from 4,000 to about 6,000 or 7,000, Ellis said.