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A sweet weekend in Shepherd

By JANET SOWLE, Editor

Syrup on a stack of hot fresh pancakes, maple ale and maple candy are just three things made from maple syrup that is so richly celebrated in Shepherd the last weekend in April. They are known as “The Sweetest Little Town Anywhere Around,” and if you’ve ever attended their annual Maple Syrup Festival you know why.

The festival dates for this year are April 27-29 but Thursday does offer a few events including one of several new events — Maple Syrup Bake Off at 7:30 pm. in the garage area of the Sugarbush Corporation at 415 N. Third St..

The Shepherd Bar will again be serving Maple Ale during the festival, according to owner Kent Roth. The Shepherd Bar is located at 324 W. Wright Ave.

“This year we’ve added just a little more maple syrup to the recipe,” said Roth with a smile.

If you want to learn how the syrup is made, tours are available at the Shepherd Sugar Bush Corporation during daylight hours starting late afternoon on Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday up until the parade. According to Ron Rhynard, president of the Shepherd Sugar Bush Corporation, it takes 40-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

The festival isn’t just about maple syrup though. It’s also about tradition. This is the 54th year of the festival and Shepherd residents come out in full force to volunteer and celebrate.

“At least one member of our immediate family has worked at the festival for the last 14 years,” said Lisa McGonegal-Smith, a Shepherd resident since 1994. “We have cooked pancakes, served pancakes and coffee, hauled sap, and worked at the Boy Scout hot dog wagon at the tractor pulls. This year a member of our family, Travis, 14, has already gotten a chance to tap trees, which is something nobody else in the family had done.”

Her older son, Levi, is finishing his freshman year at the University of Michigan. He will finish his exams that Friday and be home in time for the festival.

The Sugar Bush Corporation and the Maple Syrup Festival are both run by volunteers and when it comes to volunteers, there are never enough. If you’re interested in volunteering at the Sugar Bush Corporation, stop in this year during the festival and give them your name. They’ll make sure you are contacted next year. If you’d like to volunteer for the festival, you can find a list of contacts at www.shepherdmaplesyrupfest.org/?page_id=61.

“I love the sense of community we get when we volunteer with others to make our community a stronger place. I credit much of Travis and Levi’s success as students and Boy Scouts to this sense of community Shepherd has and opportunities for us to share this chance to make our space better,” McGonegal-Smith said.

McGonegal-Smith’s favorite event is the tractor pull.

“I love to sit on the hill in the sunshine and see my neighbors after we have been cooped up all winter,” McGonegal-Smith said. “It’s entirely volunteer and I made friends just from running into the same people every year. I feel like it’s something that makes our community special.”

Shepherd Maple Syrup is available at the following local merchants:
• Ric’s Food Center – Mission Street, Mt. Pleasant
• Shepherd Bar & Restaurant – Wright Avenue, Shepherd
• Shepherd IGA – Wright Avenue, Shepherd
• Shepherd Elevator – Wright Avenue, Shepherd
• The Hair Razor (John’s Barbershop) – Wright Avenue, Shepherd
• Timber Creek Marathon – Wright Avenue, Shepherd

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