On the second and third weekends in March, Cunningham Falls State Park serves up the chance to savor delicious Maryland-made syrup, along with a taste of old-time rural life during the Friends of Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks Inc. 45th annual Maple Syrup Festival.
During the festival, visitors can soak up live music, sugaring demonstrations, fresh mountain air, and all the syrup they can hold. It all happens at the scenic William Houck Area of Cunningham Falls State Park on March 14, 15, 21, and 22, 9:30am–2:30pm each day. Just off Route 15, the park is 15 miles from Frederick and a pleasant drive from Baltimore or Washington, D.C. (301-271-7574)
“It’s a great coming-out event for springtime,” says Rick Canter, of the Friends group. “It’s family-friendly, with a kids’ crafts/games tent, a bluegrass band, a one-man band that caters to children, maple-sugaring demonstrations, and maple syrup vendors.”
The mouth-watering centerpiece of the festival is a classic pancake breakfast where the wafting aroma of hot-off-the-griddle pancakes will be accompanied by the enticing sizzle of frying sausages.
Choose your favorite breakfast beverage from coffee, tea, milk, soda, hot chocolate, and orange juice. Hot dogs also will be offered. Visitors can dine indoors, or, if the weather allows, choose to eat outdoors by the lake.
The annual breakfast has a reputation that brings folks from far and wide.
Park manager Mark Spurrier says, “I think sometimes people say they come to show their kids the maple-sugaring process, but really they come for the sausage.”
Maryland mountain traditions
After you’re fortified by the delicious breakfast, check out the sugaring demonstration, held every hour, 10:00am–2:00pm, for a fun look at the traditional sap-to-syrup process.
“A lot of folks around here made maple syrup back in the day,” says Spurrier. “We show you how they did it. We start boiling a batch of sap first thing in the morning, and during the day it boils down into syrup.”
Sign language interpreters are available on Sundays.
Spurrier says attending the Maple Syrup Festival has become a long-standing tradition for some families.
“You see people come every year with their kids, then they skip a few years, and next thing you know they’re bringing their grandkids.”
The annual festival is the major fundraiser for the Friends group.
“We’re trying to purchase a chipper for the parks this year and hope the festival can put us over the top,” Canter says.
Insider tip: The event is budget-friendly at $2 per person, with breakfast platter prices topping out at $5.50.
Spurrier says the late-winter/early-spring event has another attraction: It’s the perfect antidote for cabin fever.
“It’s a great chance to get out of the house and experience the outdoors in a park setting.”
With Cunningham Falls an exhilarating half mile away, a hearty breakfast followed by a pleasant hike just could be a perfect way to ease into spring and maybe even start a new tradition of your own.