National Maple Syrup Festival

Maple sugaring season is upon us, so it's time for the third annual National Maple Syrup Festival, which will transform the small Southern Indiana community of Medora (population 565) into a sugary frenzy.

Though there are about 100 maple syrup producers in Indiana and countless festivals, this is the first and only national maple syrup festival in America. It's held the first two weekends in March at Burton's Maplewood Farm, Medora Community School and Medora Conservation Club.

Tapping maple trees, visiting historic encampments, listening to live music and eating everything from pancakes and sausage to maple pork chops and maple baked beans with 100-percent maple syrup are just the beginning.

The Mellencamp Maplehouse features a demonstration on how maple syrup is made. Children's activities include a farm animal petting zoo, rope-making demonstrations by Cowboy Ron, a ventriloquist, face painting and crafts.

An outdoor and wildlife program at the Medora Conservation Club features workshops on morel mushroom hunting and elk hunting, and visitors will hear from Brian Quaca, star of "Pigman, The Series" on the Sportsman Channel, and Leslie "Dutch Oven Diva" Tenessean; and see chainsaw carving demonstrations by Jason Emmons, a member of the Echo National Wood Carving Team.

The family-friendly festival involves the entire community and attracts visitors from around the country. Visitors park at Medora Community School, where several events, including judging for the Sweet Victory Challenge baking and cooking competition sponsored by King Arthur Flour, takes place. Celebrity judges participate on March 5 and 12 and include:

•Jason McLeod and Danny Grant of Chicago's Elysian;
•Adam Hickman of Cooking Light magazine;
•Angelo Pizzo, screenwriter and film producer best known for "Hoosiers" and "Rudy"; and
•Joe Kelsay, director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Heads Up!!! Foundation, which will fund the Riley Hospital for Children's "Camp About Face" at Bradford Woods, a summer camp for youth with craniofacial anomalies.

WHAT:
National Maple Syrup Festival

WHEN:
March 5-6 and March 12-13
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE:
Medora Community School, 82 South George Street
Medora, Ind. (20 minutes west off I-65 between Louisville and Indianapolis)

COST:
$10 for adults
$8 for seniors 65 and older
$6 for children 5 to 15
Free for 4 and younger

INFO:
www.nationalmaplesyrupfestival.com, 812-966-2168