Geauga County maple syrup: Tapping into top syrup producers

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio – Clutching a silver plate and large blue ribbon, Burton Armstrong Jr. felt a victory so sweet – as sweet as syrup.

Armstrong’s maple syrup beat out 28 competitors at the Geauga County Maple Festival and took home the most coveted award – best producer. The density, clarity, flavor and color were right on track for a victory over the second-place finalist, Geauga Park District.

Award-winning maple syrup is in the Armstrong family’s blood. Armstrong of East Claridon, Ohio, also won the award in 1989, his father won it in 1966 and his father was inducted into the maple syrup hall of fame two years ago.

Hall of fame. The Howard family of Geauga County joined those hall-of-fame ranks and were inducted at the maple syrup luncheon April 25.

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Marion Howard accepted the award for herself and her late husband, Vernon.

Marion and her husband took over the family farm in Bainbridge Township when they married in 1943 and increased the sugarbushes that Vernon’s father and uncle, Carl and Reno Howard, left when they died. Carl and Reno Howard were also inducted into the 2003 hall of fame.

Other categories. Producers continued being recognized for their syrup success with the out-of-county top producers. Leading the 15 entries was Jeff Pochedly of Portage County, Ohio, in first and Karl Evans of Trumbull County, Ohio, in second.

Gary and Beth Tabaj of Claridon, Ohio, took first in the hobby class, which is defined as 200 taps or less. Ken Hrabak of Hambden Township, Ohio, took second.

Candy classes. Awarding sweetness continued with the candy classes. Grand champion in the classes was James Miller of Middlefield, Ohio, who took first in sugar cakes and spread; second in cream swirl, novel design; fourth in brick; and sixth in granulated sugar.

Paula Geiss of Geauga County came in second place overall with second in brick, sugar cakes; third in granulated sugar; fourth in cream swirl; fifth in novel design; and sixth in spread.

Other Geauga County winners were James and Elaine Freeman with first in granulated sugar, Fred and Michael Dietz with first in cream swirl, brick, and Annette Polson with first in novel design.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at


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