I Met the Maple QueenMar 27, 2007 · peterb · 3 minute read
Food and Drink
For several years now I’ve had issues with the Meyersdale Maple Festival. Namely, I always intend to go but then always forget. Sometime in June I’ll ask my friends “Hey, when’s the maple festival? I want to meet the Maple Queen.” and they shout “March!” and I say “Oh, oops, maybe next year.”
This year, the 60th year of the festival, I finally remembered to go. And I met the Maple Queen.
The thing about the Maple Queen has been driving my friends insane for years now. It started out as a joke. In ages past, according to my friends from the area, participating in the Maple Festival was compulsory: one friend of mine was chosen by her school for the contest, and decided not to participate. She was informed, firmly, that if she did not she would get detention. So, at least years ago, people in these parts apparently took the festival really, really seriously. And who can blame them? It’s a big event.
](http://wptest.tleaves.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/20070325-07941.jpg “Harley Woman” )
Meyersdale is a sleepy town nestled deep in the Laurel Highlands, not far from the Maryland border. Large windmills sit astride the ridge overlooking the town. We hit the classic auto show first, under the theory that the classic car people would get bored and drive away fairly soon (we turned out to be right). Activities in town included the pancake breakfast (with lots of maple syrup, of course, and completely awesome homemade sausage), and people- watching. It was a beautiful day, so the bikers were out in full force.
The actual fair proper had lots of interesting displays and talks. Active maple taps to look at and touch (and taste – the sap really doesn’t taste like much before it’s processed, which makes one wonder how they discovered the process to begin with). The boiling off of the excess water in the sugar shack was interesting, but for me the highlight was watching the woodworkers make wooden buckets: woodworking is a skill I’ve never had the patience for, but there is true beauty in it. My photos from this part of the fair weren’t good enough to post, but fortunately someone else has produced a great gallery of maple production photos, so I don’t have to.
I only had one question: “Did anyone make maple-based liquor?” This is a question that has been burning in my mind for a while now. It seems to me that every place where people make things that could be fermented, they do ferment them, so perhaps there might be a local moonshine-like equivalent to rum. I think the presenters thought I was poking fun at them, but I was in earnest: this area of Pennsylvania, after all, was the epicenter of the Whiskey Rebellion, so they certainly knew a lot about distilling. No one, however, had ever heard of maple spirits. After the festival I did a little digging. No one has definitive answers, but the best hypothesis I’ve read is that the economics of maple syrup production made competing with rum impractical. It turns out that a maple vodka does exist, but it’s a fairly recent innovation.
Maple Queen and her retinue. Click to enlarge.
](http://wptest.tleaves.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/20070325-07940.jpg “Maple Queen” )Most importantly, though, I met the 2007 Maple Queen, Kaitlyn Berkley. Her Majesty was very gracious.