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Sewickley Heights nature center has sweet celebration on tap

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Stacey Widenhofer, Fern Hollow Nature Center environmental educator, hopes the center's March 8 Maple Sugar Celebration & Pancake Breakfast will be a “kickoff to spring.”

Not only do those attending get all-you-can-eat traditional and buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup from the Beaver County Conservation District — along with sausage and a drink — but they can get an education and participate in other activities.

Displays with information on the history and traditions of maple sugaring will be set up, and those attending can try tapping, take a nature walk and participate in a raffle of donated items and gift certificates from local businesses. Children's games will be featured.

Widenhofer said displays will feature older equipment and the new style of taps.

“Our trees will already be tapped, but we will have a station set up where you can try out some of the old-fashioned drills,” she said.

Three or four Fern Hollow trees are tapped each year for demonstrations and collection, she said.

“We have numerous school programs coming up where students visit, learn about the history and about the tools. The day of maple sugaring, people can visit the tapped trees.”

Only syrup from the conservation district is used at the celebration, but Widenhofer said Fern Hollow officials collect sap each year that is given to a local resident who has an evaporator to make syrup.

“Last year, we collected approximately 30 gallons — if not more. We are working on fundraising and a grant for potentially making our own sugar shack and evaporator so we can show people that part of the process,” she said.

Usually, she said, about 200 attend the event, and about 20 volunteers help to organize and run it.

“This is a wonderful community event,” Widenhofer said.

Proceeds will fund environmental education at Fern Hollow.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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