Lines form for separate attractions at Hilltop Boilers Maple Syrup in Newfield on Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

NEWFIELD — The population of this tiny, York County town swelled Sunday when throngs of people turned out to celebrate Maple Sunday at Hilltop Boilers Maple Syrup.

Across the state sugarhouses opened their doors for the 40th annual event, allowing the public to see how white sap is boiled into amber maple syrup and to taste maple products. It’s an early spring tradition that is growing more popular.

“You can see the crowd here today,” said Hilltop owner Michael Bryant as he looked at the lines of people. “There’s so many people who want to get out, celebrate spring, see the animals, see the farm and celebrate maple syrup. This is Newfield, a population of 1,700.”

By the close of the day, attendance Sunday will double or triple the town’s population, Bryant said.

A group of visitors watch as Murray Long finishes an ice sculpture at Hilltop Boilers. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Robust attendance was similar for the other three days Hilltop held open houses on March 18, 25 and 26, Bryant said. He holds more open house days to accommodate more visitors, he said.

Other sugarhouses also reported big crowds.


“We’re extremely busy,” Scott Dunn of Dunn Family Maple in Buxton said Saturday. He expected a heavy turnout Sunday. “Maine Maple Sunday gets more and more popular. It keeps growing.”

Across Maine, some sugarhouses held open houses all weekend while others only celebrated on Sunday, the traditional day. Maine has 520 producers licensed to sell maple products, according to Gov. Janet Mills’ office. Many sugar shacks offer pancake breakfasts and all kinds of maple products: maple syrup, maple coffee, maple candy, maple donuts and more.

Victoria Costa, 8, of Wilmington, Mass., reaches to pet a sleeping pig at Hilltop Boilers in Newfield on Sunday. Visitors were invited to guess the combined weight of the pigs in the pen. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The maple syrup industry is estimated to generate $55.6 million in economic activity a year, which supports more than 800 full- and part-time jobs across Maine. Maine is the third largest producer of maple syrup in the country, according to the state.

Attendees at Hilltop Boilers offered similar reasons for visiting the farm when they could buy the product at the supermarket. Maine maple syrup directly from the sugar shack is better, patrons said.

“It’s fresh. It’s made better,” said David Harmon of Parsonsfield, after he and his family posed for a photo at a decorative, 12-foot-plus maple syrup jug. Maine Maple Sunday is a family tradition, Harmon said: “I come every year.” His favorite is vanilla ice cream covered with maple syrup.

Jaxson Roy, 9, left; Jillianna Mason, center, 10; and Briella Mason, 4, all of Lewiston, pose in front of an inflatable syrup jug at Hilltop Boilers in Newfield on Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Vi and Arsene Lizotte of Lyman stood in line to wait to go into the barn to see cows, newborn calves and pigs. Their 4-year-old son, Arlyle, was perched on his father’s shoulders.


Vi Lizotte said her mother came another day and won a contest of “guess the combined weight of the pigs. She got it right!” Her mother gave Vi the $10 gift certificate coupon. Lizotte said she wouldn’t miss visiting a farm on Maine Maple Sunday.

“It’s supporting local,” she said. “Maine Maple Sunday is the best.”

Her family usually visits several sugarhouses in Limerick and Shapleigh. “I grew up in Shapleigh, and my parents did Maine Maple Sunday every year.” Now her husband goes, too. “He married into it,” his wife said with a laugh. Arsene Lizotte is more than fine with that. He likes ice cream with maple syrup, pancakes with maple syrup, maple flavored popcorn,”all of it,” he said. “Everything I can get.”

Chris Zuk of Sanford holds his twin grandsons, Greyson, left, and Jameson, 2, on Maine Maple Sunday at Hilltop Boilers in Newfield. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Patrick Dubuc of Lyman brought his daughters and his parents, Georgette and Robert Dubuc of Old Orchard Beach.

The French speaking couple, now in their 80s, grew up in Canada and have always enjoyed maple syrup in the spring.

Maine Maple Sunday “is right up their alley,” Dubuc said. His parents purchased a gallon. Georgette estimated the gallon will last them six months for French toast and maple taffy.


Of the 40 years that producers have held Maine Maple Sundays, “we’ve had 38 years of Maple Sundays,” said Hilltop owner Bryant.

He started his farm in 1984. Like other farms, it’s a family business.

Brenna Ott, 12, and her mother Brandy Berger, both of Lebanon, watch steam rise from a boiler at Hilltop Boilers in Newfield on Maine Maple Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Bryant said he sells between 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of maple syrup throughout the year, which includes retailing maple syrup from other Maine sugarhouses that don’t have marketing capability. All he sells “is Maine, maple syrup.” He wants to keep local syrup from being exported to Canada, he said. “We’re keeping it in Maine.”

Brenda Wedgewood of Limerick manned a booth giving away samples of maple popcorn, maple fudge, ice cream with maple syrup. “We’re very busy,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I like to see people getting out and enjoying the activities.”

The winter, Wedgewood said, “has been long.”

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