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First Tap opens sap season

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – While groundhogs might get all the fame, the first real first sign of the last days of winter is when the sticky, sweet sap begins to flow.

On Friday more than a dozen local producers and sponsors gathered at Walt’s Sugar Shack in Consecon for the First Tap ceremony, marking the beginning of the maple sap season.

It also means maple lovers can officially start the countdown to Maple In the County, which is happening this year on the weekend of March 19-20.

With a binge and purge winter in the rear view – starting from an unseasonably warm beginning to the season before temperatures suddenly plunged below freezing earlier this month – Brian Walt doesn’t know what to expect out of the maple trees this year.

“I have no idea. I think that cold weather last weekend and the snow has helped us out a lot.
“Maybe the trees will feel like it’s winter,” he joked.
“It’s a hit and miss thing. You just never quite know in this business what will happen.”

Despite the uncertainness ahead of them, the Walt family has historically done well on their plot of land.

“The last couple of years we’ve had a pretty good run, we’ve had some good syrup and I’ve been quite happy with everything we’ve had for the last two years.”

Walt admits one of the secrets behind their success is how helpful the community is, with friends and neighbours showing up to lend a helping hand when they can.

“Generally every Saturday morning we have at least half a dozen guys, at least at 7:30 in the morning. They generally help out with whatever’s going on… just cutting wood or whatever.”

In that same spirit of being a good neighbour the Walt family is giving back to the community that’s helped them so much.

On Aug. 6 they will be holding a fundraiser, the proceeds from which will go toward the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation (PECMHF).

Current plans include live entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides through the woods and an antique car show.

Admission would be free but a voluntary donation will be suggested to help the foundation, said Leo Finnegan, chairman of the board of directors for PECMHF.

“The government builds bricks and mortar, they build the hospital but all the money required for medical equipment has to be raised through foundations,” explained Finnegan about the importance of fundraising efforts like this.

While talk of a new hospital in Picton is still ongoing, it’s important the current one is still able to provide a proper level of service says Roy Pennell, councillor for Ameliasburgh ward.

“Basically what we’re looking at is, somewhere down the road we will get a new hospital, but in the meantime they need money to fund for equipment… so if you or I go in there we can… have the equipment that’s needed.

“We need that hospital, first of all, but secondly we have to continually fundraise and the Walt family has generously offered to work with the hospital foundation.”

Originally posted by the Intelligencer