Maple Sugaring Day Draws Hundreds of Visitors to Camp Russel

Photo by Scott McCloskey Greg Park, a retired employee of Oglebay Institute’s nature center, volunteers as a pioneer reenactor from the 18th century.

WHEELING — Despite cooler temperatures Saturday, nearly 300 people turned out to experience the history of maple syrup production at Oglebay Institute’s annual Maple Sugaring Day at Camp Russel.

Participants had a chance to learn about the techniques Native Americans and early pioneers used to gather and prepare maple syrup. They also learned about the natural history of maple trees and the modern methods of making syrup as they were guided through several stations along wooded trials near the camp.

Reenactors had campfires set up in different locations along the course of the 60-minute tour, which concluded with participants enjoying a hot pancake breakfast at the dining hall as members of the Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band provided festive live music.

Molly Check , director of Oglebay Institute Schrader Environmental Education Center, said Maple Sugaring Day is one of Oglebay Institute’s largest events of the year.

She said participants had a chance to enjoy syrup that is actually made at the event and sample some maple syrup and candy made by vendor Misty Mountain Estate of Lewisville, Ohio.

Retired Oglebay nature center employee Greg Park, who volunteered as a pioneer reenactor from the 18th century, educated the crowd about Thomas Jefferson’s idea for the pioneers to make their own sugar rather than buying cane sugar from the British.

“The iron kettle was the technological advance rather than trying to cook it (syrup) in a clay pot,” Park said as dozens of people stood around a small campfire with a steaming kettle hanging above it.

Andrea Bills of Proctor, who took the tour with her husband and two children, said it was a great family experience and very educational.

“We really loved it, and it was really interesting,” Bills commented while hiking back to the dining hall with her family. She said her children enjoyed sampling warm sourdough bread dipped in syrup offered by one of the reenactors.

This year’s event was sponsored by the Hess Family Foundation.

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