First official tree tapping kicks off maple syrup season

Michelle Stangler
Correspondent
74th Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes is joined by Ray Melander, owner of Leafy Grove Maple in northern Wisconsin and Michelle Stangler, intern with the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Assoc., for the first official tree tapping to kick off the maple syrup season.

MERRILL – Wisconsin Maple Month declared by Governor Tony Evers, is March 15 to April 15 with many events and products to enjoy. The First Official Tree Tapping event held Saturday, March 19 kicked off the month by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producer’s Association at Leafy Grove Maple in Merrill, Wis..

“Enjoying the outdoors and getting ready for spring making maple syrup – it can’t get any better than that,” says Ray Melander, owner of Leafy Grove Maple.

Melander and family, including his wife Pam, have been tapping trees since 1998. The family currently taps 1,300 trees on a pipeline using a custom designed collection system to gather the sap.

At the event, over fifty people joined Leafy Grove Maple in Northern Wisconsin and were able to witness the first official tree tapped by the 74th Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes.

“It is tradition for Alice in Dairyland to tap the first official tree to kick off Maple Syrup season in Wisconsin. This is a great way to celebrate Maple Syrup Month and highlight a very special industry in Wisconsin," Nunes said. "Wisconsin ranks fourth in the nation for maple syrup production and it is a family tradition in many households."

Following the official tapping, community members toured the operation while enjoying Maple Cider, a special product just made for the event.

Melander says it is another way to use the maple equipment for the event, adding that it was a special treat for the community to enjoy the many products that include maple syrup.

Senator Mary Felzkowski, of District 12, and Representative Calvin Callaham,of Assembly District 35, also attended the event. “I think if you grew up in this area, especially if you grew up in Northern or rural Wisconsin, you knew someone who tapped trees,” Felzkowski said.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski, of District 12, and Rep. Calvin Callaham, of Assembly District 35, join Ray and Pam Melander, right. for the First Official Tree Tapping event hosted by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers' Association.

After growing up with her grandfather tapping trees, Felzkowski says she appreciates the historical family tradition in Wisconsin.

“It’s a way you take what God and nature gave us and turn it into this amazing product.” Felzkowski said. “It gets shipped all over the world, it’s used in almost everything, and can be a sugar replacement.”

There are a wide variety of products manufactured by state producers including Ski’s Sugar Shack of Merrill that uses maple syrup to create many different flavors of the syrup, candies, sugar, cotton candy and more.

MORE: Maple Days one way Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center promotes Wisconsin Agriculture

MORE: Maple syrup season is here. Tap trees and taste syrup at these events in Wisconsin in 2022

Emblazoned across the labels of  East Ridge Villa's maple syrup and other value added products is the slogan “happiness is homemade.” Owners Karen and Pete Scheuerman, of Plymouth, Wis., have added new products to their line including fruits, jams, maple syrup, and more. 

Pete Scheuerman, a first generation maple syrup producer, says their “Smoke it. Grill it. Bake it.” slogan encourages customers to use products containing maple syrup to cook meat. He says his family uses the meat rub in smoking bacon, grilling a pork shoulder, and baking ribs to finish the product. Instead of using regular cane sugar, the rub substitutes maple sugar, giving the meat a salty and sweet flavor.

Wisconsin maple syrup producers are finding creative ways to incorporate maple syrup into many common foods that consumers eat including nuts, sugar, vinaigrette and more.

East Ridge Villa believes in creating many maple value added products for their customers. “It gives people something else,” Scheuerman said.

Wisconsin maple syrup producers are finding creative, innovative ways to incorporate maple syrup into many common foods that consumers eat. Those products include: maple seasoning, Sprecher’s Maple Root Beer, maple suckers and taffy, Honey Maple Vinaigrette, maple almonds and coffee and more. For other related products visit wismaple.org/buy-local.

Celebrate maple throughout the year

  • March 25-27: Sappy Days at 7860 Old 101 Road, Armstrong Creek, WI.
  • April 2: Phelps Maple Sugar Fest in Phelps, WI. 
  • April 2: 1st Annual Plymouth Maple Festival at Plymouth City Park 203 Suhrke-Plymouth, WI. 
  • April 2 & 9: Maple Creek Sugar Bush Open House at 983 7 ½  Ave., Barron WI.
  • April 30: 9th Annual Taylor County Lions Maple Fest at the Taylor County Fairgrounds. 
  • Aug. 4-14: Wisconsin State Fair, West Allis, visit the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producer’s Association booth in the Products Pavilion.
  • Sept.17-18: 30th annual celebration of the Marshfield Maple Fall Fest at Wildwood Park 1800 S Roddis Ave., Marshfield, WI. 
  • Oct. 26-29: 2022 International Maple Conference in La Crosse, WI.