iloveny-stack2.jpgFree, family-focused two-weekend events feature demos on maple syrup production, plus free sampling and products to purchase Albany, N.Y. - One of the "sweetest" events of early spring will be hosted by over 110 maple producers across New York State. The 17th annual Maple Weekends will be held for two weekends next month, March 17-19 and 24-25, offering free open houses for the public to see and learn how maple syrup and other related products are produced. New York State is the country's third largest maple producer and the world's fourth largest, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   "Our goal is to share the taste of real, mouth-watering maple syrup with residents and out-of-state visitors, and to let them know that New York's maple syrup has established a reputation as one of the highest quality maple syrups in the world," comments Helen Thomas, executive director of the 500-member New York State Maple Producers Association. "An impressive fact is that the state manufactured 564,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2011, the highest production rate in 64 years.   Thomas added that late winter/early spring is considered the "sweetest time of the year" in New York State as the sap from maple trees - the official New York State tree - starts running and the maple sugaring season gets underway. The state's typical maple production season spans from the last week in February through the first week in April, or when trees begin to bud.   During each Maple Weekend, maple products will be available to sample for free and to purchase, while demonstrations will show how maple syrup is tapped from trees, collected as sap and boiled into syrup. Some of the sugar or sap houses will provide a variety of other activities to make visits even more memorable such as pancake breakfasts, music, tastings and tours.   Here are just some of the many maple farms across New York State taking part in this year's Maple Weekends:   Adirondacks Region Cornell University - Uihlein Forest, Lake Placid: Visitors will have a guided tour of the entire syrup production process, beginning in the sugarbush where the sap is collected and ending in the sugarhouse where people can see, smell and taste fresh maple syrup being made. Visitors will also learn about ongoing research projects and a variety of maple products will be available to purchase in the gift shop. Visit www.cornellmaple.com. Toad Hill Maple Farm, Thurman: The Galusha family has produced pure Adirondack maple products at Toad Hill Maple Farm for more than 40 years. In 2011 they opened their large new timber frame sugarhouse, including a new energy-efficient process for producing pure maple syrup using a wood-fired evaporator, a reverse osmosis machine and large stainless steel tanks. Toad Hill is the largest maple producer in Warren County, gathering sap from more than 3,700 sugar maple trees. Visit Toad Hill for a tour and see its new maple kitchen where it packages syrup and makes maple cream, candy and sugar. Enjoy samples and browse its products in the gift shop. Thurman is unique in that it begins its maple weekend activities a week earlier on March 10th.  Start your maple weekend with breakfast at the Valley Road Maple Farm, beginning at 9AM each morning, and then join Toad Hill Maple Farms for the rest of the day's activities. Visit http://www.toadhillmaple.com/ or call (518)-623-4744. Catskills Region Catskill Mountain Maple, Delancey: Catskill Mountain Maple & Maplewood Farm & Orchard are co-hosting Maple Weekend from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. So put on your boots, grab the kids and eat a complimentary pancake, egg and sausage breakfast until 2 p.m. with refreshments in the heated showroom. Visitors can sample many maple products and have access to free recipes. Demonstrations feature the oil-fired evaporator making syrup and the canning process. The staff will teach visitors how to make their own candy and maple cream. See what granulated sugar is all about by touring the sugar bush and watch the staff tap a maple tree while noticing the sap lines and holding tanks. Warm up with mulled cider from Grandpas Dutch oven heated over the outdoor open fire. Watch sap drip into the old sap bucket from the maple tree. Visit catskillmountainmaple.com or call (607) 746- 6215. Chautauqua-Allegany Region Cartwright's Maple Tree Inn, Angelica: This family-owned restaurant celebrates its 50th season, serving its famous, original all-you-can-eat Buckwheat Pancakes and its own Pure Maple Syrup, produced in the restaurant's basement. Cartright's Maple Tree Inn has been featured on PBS, Rochester & Buffalo TV stations, in the New York Times and numerous other newspapers. During Maple Weekends, the Inn will serve pancake meals, demonstrating making maple syrup and hosting tours. Visit the gift shop for its signature pancake mix, pure maple syrup, maple sugar, maple cream, granulated maple sugar and maple peanuts. Visit http://www.cartwrightsmapletreeinn.com/ or call (585)-567-8181. Wright Farms Inc., Farmersville: Family-owned Wright Farms has been in business since 1840, with five generations of Wrights producing maple syrup and maple products on the farm. Currently there are over 7000 taps and a modern sugarhouse containing a 6x16 wood-fired evaporator with an energy saving steam-away system used to produce 1,100 to 1,300 gallons of pure maple syrup each year. Wright Farms serves jack wax (sugar on snow) throughout the day. Visit www.wrightfarmsmaplesyrup.com. Finger Lakes Region Cayuga Nature Center, Ithaca: Cayuga Nature Center Maplefest features syrup samplings, demonstrations, crafts and games for kids, live music, tours of Sugarbush, animal programs, craft vendors and a pancake breakfast both weekend mornings from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Maplefest costs $12 for adults, $7 for children under 12 and $35 for an entire family. CNC members receive discounted pricing. Visit www.cayuganaturecenter.org or call (607) 273-6260. Greater Niagara Region Beaver Meadow Audubon, North Java: Observe through live demonstrations how maple sugaring has been done throughout the ages, from Native American times to early Settlers to Modern Day America. Other activities include crafts, food, games, nature walks, face painting and much more. To support Beaver Meadow Audubon's education programs and mission, purchase a pancake breakfast with sausage and eggs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with maple products featured. Visit http://www.buffaloaudubon.org/ or call (585)457-3228. All Maple Weekend activities take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and a complete list of participants, visit www.mapleweekend.com.

# # #   About New York State New York State features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York's attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls, to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it's wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family like fishing, hiking and boating, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York State offers diverse activities for all travelers. For more information, visit iloveny.com. Media can find press releases and more at thebeat.iloveny.com.   CONTACT: Melanie Klausner                      M. SILVER ASSOCIATES                      (212)-754-6500, ext. 243                     mailto:melanie@msilver-pr.com                       Eric Scheffel                     Empire State Development                     (518) 292-5274                     escheffel@esd.ny.gov