Springtime is the sweetest time of year to be in the Laurel Highlands, especially in Somerset County. When the conditions are just right – when daily temperatures rise above freezing but nights are still cold – maple tree sap begins to flow, signifying the start of the maple sugaring season.

Somerset County Maple SyrupAccording to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the United States produces more than 1.3 million gallons of maple syrup each year, generating approximately $37.5 million in sales for the nation’s economy. Vermont leads U.S. states in maple syrup production while Pennsylvania is normally anywhere from fifth to seventh on the list. Somerset County, which boasts 93 sugar camps and more than 125,000 taps, ranks No. 1 in the Commonwealth. In 2012, Somerset County farms produced nearly 27,000 gallons of maple syrup. At $40 per gallon, that maple syrup netted more than $1 million for the local economy. Michael Lynch of the Somerset County Maple Producers Association recently sat down with Anna Weltz of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, to discuss the maple season and maple production. Click here to listen

Stonycreek Maple TappingThe big business of maple production and its many traditions are celebrated each spring in Somerset County, beginning with a tree tapping ceremony each February – the ceremonial kickoff to the maple sugaring season in the “Land of Milk and Maple” – followed by the crowning of the Pennsylvania Maple Queen at the beginning of March.

Maple TastingThen comes the Maple Weekend Taste & Tour March 12-13. Now in its fourth year, this free, self-guided tour hosted by the Somerset County Maple Producers Association has grown to include 15 sugar camps throughout Somerset County. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, visitors can explore any of the farms on the tour to learn about maple syrup production, traditions and sample maple products from those who know maple best, including a few whose families have been in the business for several generations. If you only have time for one stop on the tour, be sure to visit the Somerset Historical Center to see a recreated 1860s sugar camp and celebrate the region’s maple heritage.

Pennsylvania Maple FestivalMaple season festivities culminate with the annual Pennsylvania Maple Festival in Meyersdale, a.k.a. “Maple City USA.” The festival, on tap April 2-3 and 6-10, celebrates its 69th year in 2016 and features a variety of activities at Festival Park and at other venues throughout Meyersdale. Events include maple syrup production demonstrations, live entertainment, the 40th Annual Quilt Show, tea with Queen Maple LXIX, children’s activities, as well as truck, tractor and farm equipment shows, just to name a few.

Not to be missed are the Grand Feature Parade, Lions Club pancake breakfasts, and “Legend of the Magic Water,” a historical pageant brought to life by more than 100 local residents to depict the discovery of maple syrup as well as the history of Meyersdale through song, dance and narration. New this year, the Maple Festival will also feature a Beer & Wine Garden at Festival Park on weekends.