Sugary sweet

Gowanda family participating in maple weekends

Submitted Photo. Maple Weekend will be held for two consecutive weekends, March 18-19 and 25-26, when New York State Maple Producers will host open houses at their facilities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The Lesefske family invites visitors to their Maple Glen Sugar House in Gowanda, where they can learn firsthand about maple syrup production. From left, brothers Paul and Dana Lesefske are shown in front of the evaporator at their state-of-the-art sugar house, located at 2266 Zoar Road.

GOWANDA — For two consecutive weekends, Maple Glen Sugar House will join approximately 150 other maple producers across New York state for the 22nd annual Maple Weekend, March 18-19 and 25-26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

The Lesefske family of Gowanda and other members of the New York State Maple Producers Association will host free open houses at their facilities, where the public can learn about maple production.

Paul Lesefske and his brother, Dana, invite visitors to their state-of-the-art sugar house, located just outside Gowanda at 2266 Zoar Road. They will give tree-tapping demonstrations and compare the “old days” of maple sap collection with new methods.

Kids will have the chance to pound a spout into a hole drilled in a maple tree, hang the bucket and put the cover on. Visitors are welcome to take a walk down through the sugarbush to see the sap lines.

Maple candy will be made at the sugar house throughout the day, and free samples will be given out. The store located next to the sugar house offers a large selection of maple products, including maple popcorn and hot dogs cooked in maple sap that will be available for sale.

Submitted Photo. An old-style sap bucket was commonly used, but the Lesefskes have upgraded to a modern plastic tubing system that runs from the maple trees into the sugar house.

Young and old alike will enjoy the new “head-in-the-hole” activity added by the Lesefskes this year. It’s a great photo “op” where visitors can make like a maple leaf or a syrup bottle when they put their face in a hole on the cut-out board. Another new activity is a corn cannon that is bound to be a hit. People can try their hand at shooting corn cobs across the deep ravine into a target on one of the trees on the opposite side.

The Lesefske family has been in the maple production business for 21 years and has participated in the event every year since 1996. Paul and Dana operate Maple Glen along with the help of Paul’s girlfriend, Sue Martin, who does many tasks, including doing the books, paperwork and candy making.

Maple Glen Sugar House is a lifelong dream of the Lesefske brothers, who have made maple syrup their entire lives. Long before their operation became a business, they were making maple syrup with their father, Franklin, who grew up on the property. Paul said when he and Dana were kids, they were on the property boiling in a flat pan out in the middle of nowhere, with no building.

“We have a picture of the first sugar house we built, in 1983, when we were in high school,” he said. “We tore down the old sugar house, in 2012, and started construction that year.”

They built on the existing site of the old 28-foot by 60-foot sugar house and added another 40 feet to expand the space. The building is a post and beam-type structure with a cathedral ceiling of spruce tongue-and-groove overlooking the evaporator.

The Lesefskes have continued to upgrade adding a larger reverse osmosis machine, last year, and a satellite system, a few years ago, to monitor the 4,000 taps they have on three different parcels of property. In February, Paul retired as a corrections officer, so now he’ll have more time to increase the number of taps by next year.

This year’s production was impacted with an unusually mild winter and unseasonably warm temperatures. Lesefske said it’s been way too warm and the trees are starting to bud. Now the runs will start to shorten up and the maple trees will start to shut down.

“We tapped early and started making syrup on Feb. 12 this year,” he said. “We really should have started back in January, if not December, but I was still working full-time.”

According to Lesefske, it takes approximately 40-44 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of maple syrup. He said they’re at about a quart of syrup per tap right now, which is about the same as last year.

“There are some days ahead in March that are looking good for a few more runs when the temperatures are expected to be freezing every night and back in the low 40s during the day. But, once the trees are budded, there’s no getting past that,” he said.

Lesefske said dark syrup happens when the maple trees are going through a chemical change. Once the buds start to come out, a darker grade of syrup is made. He said the sap tends to get bitter at the very end and that’s when they quit.

Maple Glen Apiaries has been added to the business and it goes right along with their line of maple products. Paul started with a collection of beehives containing 25 colonies that will grow. He hopes to have some honey available in late summer or early fall.

Free tours are given year-round at Maple Glen Sugar House. During maple season, guests can experience the art of making pure maple syrup, sugar and cream. Anyone wishing to visit should call 532-5483 in advance for an appointment, or email Lesefske at For more information, visit online at and Facebook.

A list of sugar houses participating in the two Maple Weekends is available online at