Maple Syrup festival to celebrate Iowa’s sweetest harvest

Maple Syrup
The Indian Creek Nature Center has held the Maple Syrup Festival for over 30 years. — photo by Nora Kuby via Flickr Creative Commons

The end of Iowa’s maple syruping season is approaching, and to celebrate the harvest, the Indian Creek Nature Center (6665 Otis Rd S.E., Cedar Rapids) will host their 32nd Annual Maple Syrup Festival on March 21 and 22.

Although many associate the Northeast United States with maple syrup harvest, Jan Aiels, the Education Director at the Nature Center, says that Iowa’s weather is ideal for harvesting maple syrup.

“There are a lot of maples on the property, and Iowa typically has good weather for it,” said Aiels. “You need it to be freezing at night so the sap runs sweet. The season’s coming to an end because of the unusually warm days we’ve been having lately, so the festival date came at a perfect time this year.”

Still, Aiels explains that Iowa has its limitations when it comes to harvesting maple syrup.

“There aren’t as many maples as there in the Northeast, so syruping is more of a hobbyist thing,” said Aiels. “The potential is here, but the work that would be involved definitely makes it more of a hobby operation. Years ago this may not have been true, but Iowa just doesn’t have as much crop diversity as it used too.”

The event will provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to taste maple syrup, of course, including a pancake and sausage breakfast. The event will also feature live demonstrations of the syrup-making process and offer attendees a look inside the Nature Center’s Maple Sugar House, where sap is boiled and condensed into an edible syrup.

“Our syrup has a different flavor than what you can buy in a store,” said Aiels. “What we make is 100 percent tapped from a variety of trees. Sugar, silver and boxed elder trees are all used in the process. Our syrup has a stronger taste and is a little darker than people are probably used to.”

Tickets can be purchased online and cost $8-$10 for adults, $4-$5 for children. The festival begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m. on both March 21 and 22.

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