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Plan now to taste the fun at SIU’s Maple Syrup Festival March 23-24

Young blonde girl is seated at a table, eating pancakes.

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A mouth-watering, long-standing Southern Illinois tradition returns to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center March 23-24, so make plans now to attend the popular annual Maple Syrup Festival.

The delicious homemade maple syrup is the star of the show, but the weekend festival features a wide assortment of special activities, many of which are free. The fest, which is open to the public, runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day at the site, about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road.

Wide array of activities

The festival is a family-friendly affair with something for all ages to enjoy. Vendors and artisans from throughout the Midwest will conduct interactive demonstrations. Visitors will learn about the time-consuming process that converts maple sap into rich, tasty syrup. They will observe hides tanned into leather and find out how early settlers survived in the wild.  Participants can also test their prowess at the climbing wall and enjoy lumberjack games and demonstrations courtesy of the SIU Forestry Club. Weather permitting, artists from the Arabesque Dance Studio will perform aerial silks demonstrations as well.

Children can participate in several maple syrup- or spring-themed activities taking place in the cabins throughout the weekend, too. Participants can also enjoy nature hikes and outdoor educational activities, discovering the beauty of Touch of Nature.

As many as 50 vendors will be on-site, offering a wide variety of artisan products, including jewelry, pottery, artwork, prints, handmade bath and body products, crocheted items, spices and much more.

There is no cost to enjoy the diverse array of festival activities, with the exception of the breakfast, lunch and any purchases made.

Get tickets at the door

The home-cooked pancake breakfast will be served from 9 a.m. to noon each day, and tickets will be sold only at the door of Freeberg Hall each morning this year. The pancakes will be topped with maple syrup and served along with sausage, fruit and drinks. Tickets are $15 for ages 11 and older and $8 for ages 4-10. Children 3 and younger eat free.

Lunch will also be available for purchase from noon to 3:30 p.m., and there will be an open cash bar from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Additional details

Volunteers are also welcome to assist with the festival. To sign up or learn more about volunteer opportunities, look online.

For more information about the Maple Syrup Festival visit ton.siu.edu, call 618-453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu.

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