Gov. Hassan visits Lyndeborough

LYNDEBOROUGH – The governor does not often come to Lyndeborough. The last one came on an official visit was John Sununu, who took part in the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1986.

Last week, Gov. Maggie Hassan got a royal welcome when she visited The Maple Guys new sap house on Cram Hill Road to officially open the annual maple syrup season. She left with an abundance of good will and an armload of gifts, including a basket of maple products from the hosts and a copy of “Citizen Soldiers,” the history of the Lafayette Artillery Company, which has been in Lyndeborough since 1804.

She also received an oversized “post card,” a creation of grades one through three who attended the event. She told them she would put it in her office “for everybody to see.” The back of the card was a picture of three trees with the students’ names “carved” on them.

The annual Tree Tapping Ceremony is sponsored by the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association and was attended by many members from across the state. While the sap has started to run in this part of the state, those from up country said it was not yet warm enough. Daytime temperatures have to be above freezing. On Tuesday, March 11, it got up to 40 degrees.

Robyn Pearl, of the New Hampshire Maple Syrup Producers Association, was happy that the weather was warming up but that nights were still cold.

“It’s a nice transitional pattern with freezing (at night) and thawing (during the day),” she said.

The maple syrup season “looks promising now,” said Chris Pfeil, owner of The Maple Guys sugar shack in Lyndeborough on the day Hassan came to tap a tree. “It looks like it’s starting to warm up” for Maple Weekend, which is March 22-23.

After touring Pheil’s brand new sap house, the governor was escorted a short distance to a large maple tree. After signing two shiny sap buckets, she was handed the brace and bit to make the ceremonial tap hole.

“Remind me how to use this thing,” Hassan said, but apparently had no problems. When she removed the bit she was rewarded with a spurt of sap.

After accepting the students’ gift, she asked them if they knew all about maple syrup. They said they did but did not recall the number of gallons to sap to make a gallon of syrup, which is 40. They knew it was “a lot.”

Maple syrup is a major New Hampshire industry, generally producing about 126,000 gallons a year. Last year’s crop was worth about $6.5 million.

The Maple Guys began in 1999 in North Lyndeborough as a hobby between two neighbors. As they grew they, became distributors for Lapierre USA Inc., distributors of evaporators and related equipment. In 2002, they were awarded the Carlisle Trophy for the best syrup in New Hampshire by the Maple Producers Association.

Chris and Kim Pheil are now the operators, the other “maple guy” Chris Schoen, having founded his own work woodworking business, didn’t leave him time enough for maple sugaring.

Pheil opened his new sap house on Cram Hill Road this spring and continues to operate his original site in North Lyndeborough.