Visit Vermont this spring to sample its sweet treats

The state of Vermont, the country’s top producer of maple syrup, is inviting visitors to explore both its sugar industry and its artistic offerings between mid-March and mid-April during a month-long period kicked off and concluded by maple festivals.

With more than 3,000 sugarmakers in residence, Vermont is the top maple syrup producer in the United States, generating over one million gallons annually. That probably comes as no surprise but, in addition to its position as a prolific producer of syrup, the state also has more than its fair share of writers and artists (second and third in the nation as a percentage of the workforce, respectively), and eighth for musicians and photographers.

This year, the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association have teamed up to invite visitors to pair visits to the state’s famed maple sugarhouses with outdoor arts exploration starting with this year’s Maple Open House Weekend, March 25 and 26, and running to the Vermont Maple Festival, April 22 through 24.

Several areas have a variety of offerings in both categories, ranging from St. Albans on the north to Manchester, less than 200 miles to the south, with several areas in between.

St. Albans is well-known for hosting the Vermont Maple Festival, which takes place every year in April. There is also an artistic ode to sugaring in town: a 6-foot-by-16-foot mural titled "Sugaring Off” by Phillip Von Saltza inside the town’s Federal Building. Both “Sugaring Off” and “Haying,” another onsite mural by the same artist, were New Deal paintings commissioned in 1939.

Beginning this spring, more murals will be painted on downtown businesses and in public parks across the city.

'Sugaring Off' mural in St. Albans, Vermont VT painted by Phillip Von Saltza
'Sugaring Off' mural in St. Albans
Sweet tooths can be satisfied at a number of nearby sugarhouses, including Branon Family Maple Orchards. Located in Fairfield and Bakersfield, family members are seventh-generation maple producers who embrace both time-honored traditions and new technology. The facility is utilizing 18 solar panels across the sugarbush to tap the sun for its energy. Also located nearby are Bouchard Family Dairy in Franklin and Leahy’s Maple Farm in St. Albans. Both will be open for Vermont Maple Open House Weekend.

Jeffersonville has two new murals which hold the title of the largest painted murals in the state. North & South Silos by artist Sarah Rutherford is front and center at a busy roundabout in town. The North Silo represents the summer and autumn seasons, with an elder male farmer depicting the elder generation. He looks towards a child on the South Silo, a representation of the future generation on a backdrop of winter and spring.

Also nearby is Cold Hollow Sculpture Park in Enosburg Falls, which features 50 massive sculptures by David Stromeyer, set amid old farm meadows and hay fields. Cold Holllow Sculpture Park is open during the summer.

Sugar rushes are available nearby at Snowshoe Pond Maple Sugarworks in Enosburg Falls and Marsh Family Sugarworks in Jeffersonville, where the proprietors manage over 10,000 taps. Both will be open to visitors during Vermont Maple Open House.

Sweets shoppers may also want to visit the Vermont Maple Outlet on Route 15 in Jeffersonville and Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits in Cambridge, where visitors can see their sugarhouse in full swing and sample syrup inside, along with maple cocktails and tastings of maple wine and maple cream liqueur. Tours are also available.

Burlington, Vermont’s “Queen City,” features multiple murals and sculpture including a new mural along the waterfront; the Andy “A-Dog” Williams Skatepark & mural celebrating his life, made by his long-time girlfriend and tattoo artist Jozie Furchgott Sourdiffe. Williams, a prominent local disc jockey, passed away in December 2013 following a yearlong battle with leukemia.

Multiple sculptures and murals can be viewed along the pedestrian-only Church Street Marketplace. One of the highlights is the "Everyone Loves a Parade!" mural by renowned Canadian muralist Pierre Hardy, widely known for his inventive and detailed large-scale pieces. Grand Master Samuel de Champlain leads the charge as the scene depicts an evolution in time along Church Street.

Andy 'A Dog' mural in Burlington, Vermont by Jozie Furchgott Sourdiffe
Andy 'A Dog' mural in Burlington
Hundreds of acres of sugaring are just a short drive away. Just 15 minutes from Church Street is Backyard Boilers in Colchester. While hours are limited to a small window of the year, during open house visitors can watch traditional methods of sugaring on a “gentleman's farm” and take home maple syrup, maple candies, and maple butter.

At Shelburne Farms’ 15-acre sugarbush, sap is collected using modern plastic tubing and about 50 metal buckets. The pure maple syrup is sold at the Welcome Center and Farm Store and proceeds are reinvested into farm-based education programs for students, families, and educators.

Visitors to the state capital of Montpelier can pop into the Vermont Arts Council on State Street and explore the Council’s year-round outdoor sculpture garden. A public/private collaboration, the sculpture garden features rotating two-year exhibits of contemporary sculpture by Vermont artists. Designed in 2002 by Burlington landscape architects H. Keith Wagner and Associates, it offers a place to picnic or enjoy some peace and quiet.

Elsewhere in downtown Montpelier, visitors will see several new arts initiatives, like the murals and art installations along the walls of businesses, bridges, and sidewalks of Langdon Street.

Nearby is Morse Farm Sugarworks and Nordic ski area, a 200-year-old family sugaring operation that offers free sugar house tours and tastings, a country store, multimedia displays in a real woodshed theater, nature trails, and an outdoor farm life museum. Sprinkled throughout the grounds are whimsical wooden folklife characters carved by the proprietor, Burr Morse.

Rutland’s extensive arts scene features public art and outdoor exhibits including several public murals in the city’s downtown and a contemporary sculpture garden situated at a historic marble quarry in West Rutland. At The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, visitors will often see artists in residence and workshops in action. Located just down the road is the West Rutland Art Park’s outdoor sculptures.

Nearby sugarhouses include Green’s Sugarhouse, nestled in Finel Hollow in Poultney, where the tradition of maple sugaring has been passed down through six generations. The entire sugaring process, from the sap that flows from their 5,000 trees to the finished product on your breakfast table, can be seen during Open House Weekend. Though open year round for tastings and guided tours, visitors are advised to call ahead for availability, at 802-287-5745.

Home to the largest sculpture garden in the state, the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester offers outdoor art plus an historic mansion and art gallery. SVAC’s sculpture park and gardens provide a mix of culture and contemplation for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike With commanding views of the Green and Taconic Mountains in all directions, the park offers more than 120 acres of forest-land and trails, a perfect spot for outdoor activities ranging from cross country skiing and snowshoeing to picnicking and dog walking.

Dutton Berry Farm has three well-known farm stands across Southern Vermont where you can purchase maple syrup and other specialty products. Visitors will be able to see sugarhouse in operation at the Manchester location, where each year, they put out more than 3,000 taps. The farm is open seven days a week.

Wild Farm Maple is an old hill farm on the lower slopes of Mount Equinox, chopped out of the wilderness at the end of the 18th century. The Clay family began restoring the property in the 1960s and began producing maple syrup in 1972. They welcome visitors during Vermont Maple Open House weekend.

Getting there

Burlington International Airport (BTV) is served by a number of airlines including Allegiant, American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), jetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) and seasonally by Canadian carrier Porter Airlines. Nine rental car companies have facilities at BTV.

Visitors can also fly into Rutland’s Southern Vermont Regional Airport (RUT). Cape Air offers direct flights to and from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). Rental cars are available.

Burlington is approximately a half-hour’s drive from St. Albans at the north end of this year’s sugar road, and about two and one-half hours from Manchester at the southern end. However, one need not drive the entire route to get a very good sense of the art and the tasty treats the state has to offer.

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Photos provided by the Vermont Arts Council
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