ELBURN – Curtis Pierce of Elgin tried to give his 9-year-old grandson, Dallas Bauer, a boost of confidence Saturday as he practiced his hand drilling techniques on a maple tree at Johnson's Mound Forest Preserve near Elburn.
"Come on, push, push," Pierce said, urging him on.
Dallas was one of several youngsters who discovered how challenging it is to get maple sap out of a maple tree. As part of the forest preserve's annual Maple Sugaring Days event, kids were given hand drills to practice on trees that were already cut down.
"Maple trees have hard wood," Dallas said, before picking up the hand drill again and giving it another try.
The snow on the ground made it hard to believe that spring is around the corner. But Pierce took it all in stride.
"What other time a year can you see maple syrup?" he asked. "I think this is pleasant. If the sun wasn't shining, it wouldn't be so nice."
Those who came to the event found out the process involved in making maple syrup, from beginning to end. Volunteer Susan Frankel told the youngsters that the sap "looks like water when it comes out of the tree."
But the sap was becoming more recognizable as the syrup one puts on pancakes as it sat on the open fire in front of Frankel.
"You boil the sap down and the water evaporates," she said. "What you end up with is concentrated sugar. It takes 40 gallons of sap from trees to make one gallon of syrup."
Participants also were able to find out what real maple syrup tastes like by trying samples from Funks Grove, which makes maple syrup just south of Bloomington-Normal.
"It tastes like caramel," said 6-year-old Spencer McCall, of Campton Hills.
Stacy McCall brought Spencer and her other son, Preston, 2, to the event.
"We like doing stuff outdoors," she said. "And before we came here, Spencer had been learning about maple syrup by watching 'Curious George.' ''
Maple Sugaring Days continue from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Johnson's Mound Forest Preserve, 41W600 Hughes Road, Elburn.