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'Big 400' Communities Celebrate Maple Festival with Tours, Events

Businesses in Dexter, Chelsea, Jackson, and Pinckney will spotlight maple syrup with special events on March 9.

It’s maple syrup time! The communities of The Big 400 (Manchester, Chelsea, Dexter, Jackson) are teaming up to celebrate maple syruping in southern Michigan with a festival March 9-10.

The festival includes pancake breakfasts, tours of tapping areas and the syruping process, the release of a local maple wine, and lots of good things to eat.

Pancake breakfasts planned

There are three locations to choose from for a pancake breakfast March 9. Proceeds from the breakfasts go to support The Big 400 in guiding tourists to our region.

  • American Legion Post 31 (Chelsea), 1700 Ridge Road, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring your family and friends to the Legion Post on Cavanaugh Lake for a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, juice, milk, or coffee with real maple syrup. Cost: $6 per person. Call 734-475-3170.
  • Manchester: McLennan Maple Syrup anytime on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. for a pancake breakfast. Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for children. Sides of sausage are available for an additional charge. The location is 10950 M-52, Manchester. Call 734-428-7005.
  • Hell’s Kitchen (Hell, Mich.) from 8 to 11 a.m. Head into Hell for pancakes, sausage, coffee, milk and orange juice for a $6 donation. Take advantage of a one-hour trail hike by a DNR interpreter at the Pinckney Recreation Area near Hell at 11 a.m. The location is 4025 Patterson Lake Road, Hell. Call 734-648-0456.

Maple tours and interpretation events

All of the events are planned for March 9-10.

  • Eddy Discovery Center, Chelsea, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s time for that traditional rite of spring, tapping maple trees. Observe demonstrations of the whole process of making maple syrup from collection the sap to the evaporation process. A film will show visitors the old-time methods used to make maple syrup. Maple products will be available for purchase. Cost: $2 per person or $5 per family. The location is 17030 Bush Road, Chelsea. Call 734-475-3170.
  • McLennan Farm maple syrup tours (Manchester). Tours take place every two hours beginning at 9 a.m. Take a look at the sugar shack process, handle tools and supplies, learn about tapping the trees, and take part in maple-related activities, such as coloring and crafts. Maple candy and ice cream with syrup are available for purchase. The location is 10950 M-52, Manchester. Call 734-428-7005.
  • Hudson Mills Metropark (Dexter) at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. See how to tap trees, collect sap and boil it into maple syrup. All-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, with real maple syrup, will be served at the Activity Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the days the tours are offered. Guided tour: $3 per person. Pancake breakfast: $3.50 per child or $5.50 per adult. Reservations required for the guided tour. For more information, call Hudson Mills Metropark at 734-426-8211.

Maple Wine Tasting

  • Sandhill Cranes Vineyard (Jackson): A highlight of the Maple Festival is the release of the current vintage of Sugar Snow, Sandhill Crane Vineyards’ limited edition dessert wine made with local maple sap and syrup. Light and not too sweet, Sugar Snow pairs beautifully with light desserts, sweet cheeses, and the winery’s famous bacon chocolate chip cookies.

Taste the Irish Hills

  • Travel through the Brooklyn-Irish Hills to area restaurants and taste their specialties. Tickets are available from the Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce for only $15, and cover tasting at 20 different establishments. Call 517-592-8907 for more information.

Other maple activities in the area:

  • Dahlem Conservancy (Ann Arbor): Maple Sugaring Program on March 16 at noon.

Come see the sugaring process step-by-step, with hands-on activities for all ages. Guided walks begin every 20 minutes. Hike to the sugar bush, try your hand at tapping, and see sap being converted to syrup. Maple sugar candy and syrup will be for sale in the gift shop. The tour is outside, so dress for the weather. Call ahead to register for a time slot.

About The Big 400

The 400 square miles encompassing the Waterloo and Pinkney Recreation Areas and their neighbors has recently been designated as The Big 400. The Big 400 is a tourist area featuring outdoor recreation, small town living, and a wide range of activities and events.

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