HENNIKER, N.H.— Gov. Christopher T. Sununu of New Hampshire tapped the official first maple tree of the state's 2019 sugaring season Monday at a ceremony at Intervale Pancake House.
"We have those guys to the west who think they do it better than we do, but they don’t,” Sununu joked about neighboring Vermont, where the governor of that state plans to tap a ceremonial first tree on Friday at Georgia Mountain Maples in Fairfax, Vt.
Sununu spent more than an hour touring the Intervale facility in Henniker, N.H., visiting with owners Patrick and Melanie Connor and daughter Shelbie Connor who manages the dining room at the popular restaurant and sugarhouse.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the restaurant which is open seven days per week near the base of Pat’s Peak ski area.
Patrick Connor, who's been sugaring since he was 12, taps about 1,000 trees around the area and makes syrup in a window-paned boiling room attached to the restaurant dining room. He boils on an open-pan 5x14, wood-fired Leader evaporator.
Sununu tapped a tree in the backyard of the restaurant that was planted in 1999 by students from nearby John Stark Regional High School. Those same students returned for the ceremony Monday.
The governor made good work of tapping the tree with an old “bit and brace” drill.
Fretting that he might whack the 5/16ths plastic spile too hard with a hammer, he called up some small children from the crowd to drive the tap with a lighter touch.
Sununu said he makes syrup of his own at his personal residence in Newfield, N.H. tapping three maple trees with six taps and boiling the sap down in his kitchen.
“We’ve done it with our kids for the past ten years,” Sununu told The Maple News. “And we make it thin. About a twenty to one ratio over the kitchen stove.”
Sununu was joined on the tour of Intervale by state agriculture commissioner Shawn Jasper who commented on the size of the industry in the Granite State.
“Last year we made 164,000 gallons in New Hampshire, a six percent increase over the year before,” Jasper said. “It is a $6 million industry in this state and an important part of agriculture.”
The tapping event was hosted by the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association which has organized the “Governor’s Tap” for nearly 50 years.
Last year the event was held on the statehouse lawn in Concord.
Maple season typically runs from mid-February through mid-April in New Hampshire.
The maple association is hosting a statewide Maple Open House Weekend on March 23-24.
Tourists can go to www.nhmapleproducers.com for a complete list of participating sugarhouses and a map for a self guided tour.