It’s early April and the maple sap is flowing, which means it’s time for one of Vermont’s most beloved traditions: The Sugaring-Off Party. This recently rediscovered clip from a 16mm film reel in the Middlebury College Archives records one such party held by students in the early 1940s.
Sponsored by the Mountain Club, the annual outing brought sugar-craving undergrads to the college’s own maple grove near the Bread Loaf Inn. Complete with an evaporation hut for processing freshly-tapped sap into syrup, the “sugar camp” boasted 1,100 trees on land bequeathed to the college by Joseph Battell in 1915. Photographs from the 1939 party even made it onto the pages of LIFE Magazine.
After hiking up to the orchard, “Sugarman” Boudreau helped the eager students collect sap and boil it to produce thick maple syrup. Like any good Vermont sugar-makers, the students diligently (and by no means begrudgingly) inspected the results by tasting generous helpings on snow with pickles and doughnuts. Others chose the more exhaustive measure of quality control and vigorously whipped the syrup until it hardened into maple candy.