The fifth annual Jeffrey Woods Festival drew about 400 people interested in learning how maple syrup is produced locally.

Participants who registered in advance of the March 3 event at Jeffrey Park received a bottle of maple syrup that was produced onsite with sap that had been extracted from the park's sugar maple trees. Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler, city Recreation Director Michael Price and a team of volunteers that included members of Boy Scouts Troop 166 conducted the maple syrup production workshop.

The remaining bottles will be on sale at local boutique Urban Emporium, 2260 E. Main St., Kessler said.

"There are over 1,000 sugar maple trees in Bexley, and we have several hundred in Jeffrey Park," Kessler said. "We've had a pretty good yield this year. We sell any surplus on Arbor Day (April 27)."

The process of making maple syrup involved boiling the sap on large machines set up in Jeffrey Woods. This year's Jeffrey Woods Festival saw a record yield of sap since weather conditions were ideal -- temperatures below freezing at night, sunny and above 40 degrees during the day, Price said. Such conditions create a flow of sap within the trees.

"We estimate around 325 gallons of sap," had been gathered, Price said.

Judith Dunham, who has lived in Bexley for four years with her husband, Judson, and their three children, said she attended the festival for the first time this year out of curiosity.

"I'm from the Netherlands and we don't have maple trees, and this really cool," she said. "I didn't know how maple syrup was made and I think it's wonderful that we're able to do that here. I wanted to show my kids."

Bexley resident David Tetzloff, who is executive chef at G. Michael's Bistro & Bar in downtown Columbus, was also a first-time Jeffrey Woods Festival attendee this year.

"I think it's great that they're able to take a resource that we have here, convert it into something we can use and be proud of as a city," he said. "It's kind of the rustic way that maple syrup takes place. I think that's what's fascinating about it."

Bexley City Council President Lori Ann Feibel said she has attended the festival every year since its inception. She said hosting a festival focused on trees makes sense, considering Bexley is an accredited arboretum with the Morton Register of Arboreta.

"It's a wonderful thing to be able to do in an arboretum. It's really a way to embrace what we have and be able to celebrate it," she said. "You would never guess in the middle of the city and still be able to do these kinds of things and be able to educate our children about what it means to be able to make maple syrup, how it actually happens."

The Jeffrey Woods Festival also included a "Wood Chop Shop," in which trees that were removed from city rights of way due to prior damage were cut up for firewood; a woodworking project led by local woodworker Steve Walker; a sawmill demonstration; and an axe sharpening demonstration by Yellowood Design Studio.

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