BATH TWP.: Bill Racin and his family celebrated his birthday with a pancake breakfast at Hale Farm and Village Visitor’s Center on Sunday during the 2014 Maple Sugar Festival.
The Avon octogenarian, who turned 83 on Friday, didn’t venture outside to see how the maple syrup is produced on the working farm dedicated to early American craft and trade demonstrations. Instead, he chose to enjoy his breakfast while being the center of attention and the focus of some good-natured ribbing.
“We wanted to come here because he helped the Hales move in,” quipped son-in-law Tom Mohney of Lakewood.
While the breakfast drew a large crowd to the farm’s first pancake breakfast of the season, a few hardy visitors braved the wind and cold to listen to museum educators explain how American Indians and pioneers made sugar and syrup from the sap of maple trees growing on the 90-acre farm.
But Sunday morning’s 20 degree temperatures were far too cold for the sap to run into buckets collecting the sweet treat, said Hale Farm and Village site manager Jason Klein.
“Temperatures need to be about 40 degrees during the day and above 32 degrees at night,” he explained.
Klein said he doubted Sunday’s return to frigid weather would keep visitors away.
“Today’s mild compared to what we’ve been dealing with this year,” he said.
Jeffrey Jones of Kent, known to visitors as pioneer Obadiah, stood in the middle of the woods by a small fire talking of the American Indians and European settlers to the Western Reserve who shared their knowledge to create hard cakes and molds of the brown sugar. They used the staple as cash to barter for household items they couldn’t produce themselves, he said.
Jones, who has worked at Hale Farm for nine years, said the hard work wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for early settlers, especially as they neared the end of winter.
“Have you ever heard of cabin fever? This is a good cure. They could get of the cabin for a couple of weeks,” he said.
Ronald Meyer of Monroe Falls educated more guests inside the sugar house with the science behind maple syrup production in the mid 1800s that continues today at Hale Farm.
Meyer, who must have been a mathematics teacher in a former life, quizzed visitors about the amount of sap it takes to produce one gallon of maple syrup and demonstrated the differences in the grades of syrup produced.
“Grade A is preferred by connoisseurs. It really doesn’t have much taste,” he explained. “Grade D is dark — more like a lubricant,” he said with a laugh.
The 2014 Maple Sugar Festival will continue serving pancake breakfasts from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. March 22 and 23 at Hale Farm, 2686 Oak Hill Road in Bath.
Admission including breakfast is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-12. Breakfast only is $5 for both adults and children. For more information, call 330-666-3711 or visit www.halefarm.org.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.