It’s been a decades-long rite of spring for tree-tappers and taste-testers alike, but the traditional window of turning maple sap into maple syrup is closing.

Especially – and unfortunately – in these parts.

“What we’ve learned in this world of maple-tapping is that the climate is shifting, so we have to shift what we’re doing to better fit with what’s happening in nature,” says Christy Graser, the Fox Valley Park District’s environmental education supervisor. “And that means taking a look at moving this event up a couple weeks.”

Renee Oakley, facility manager at FVPD’s Red Oak property, went a step further regarding the eventual fate of Maple Fest, the District’s annual tree-tapping event that’s scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“This is something that is a limited edition,” Oakley says. “Yes, it’s been going on here at Red Oak for 40 years, but because of the warming there are trees that won’t be able to do this very long and this won’t be something we’ll always be able to see ‘down here.’

“At some point, there’ll only be maple-tapping further north such as Minnesota and Canada, so see it while you can!”

Tickets for Maple Fest are $5 and guests are encouraged to purchase them on our website for entry into their timed presentations, which begin at the top of each hour on both days of the event and last about one hour.

Naturalists from Red Oak will conduct a short presentation, before leading visitors to various stations in the woods to view demonstrations of how maple sap is harvested and turned into maple syrup. Attendees can stop by Sapwood Corner to test their maple-tapping skills firsthand. Sweet maple syrup samples will be given at the end of each tour for registered attendees.

Additional refreshments will be available for purchase, including a three-sample flight with new yummy syrup flavors, such as Sugarmaker’s Cut, Sugarmaker’s Dark, Hibiscus-Flower Infused, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Salted-Caramel Infused, Ginger-Root Infused, and Cinnamon- and Vanilla-Infused, as well as the popular Sparkle Syrup from Runamok. Also, the handmade, wooden flight boards emblazoned with the Red Oak logo can be purchased for $15. Each unique flight was designed and crafted by a member of our Operations team.

Maple Fest parking is available in both the main lot at Red Oak, along with additional space at The Wilds, just to the north. FVPD staff encourages guests who park at The Wilds to use the nearby path as they make the short walk to Maple Fest, which is headquartered near the Nature Center.

“It’s a fantastic process, a kickoff to spring,” Oakley says. “Maple tapping allows us to see inside the secret processes of trees and the treasure they hold inside.”