ST. JOSEPH/COLLEGEVILLE - It's maple syrup season in central Minnesota, and you have plenty of chances to celebrate.

You can take a tour of the maple syrup operation at Stearns County's Kraemer Lake - Wildwood County Park.

Visitors are welcome the next three Saturdays from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m. They have about 1,400 taps on a tubing and vacuum pump system - the only system of this kind in Stearns County. They also use 200 buckets to collect tree sap.  A wood-fired evaporator is used to boil the 16,000 gallons of sap into 400 gallons of pure maple syrup.

Groups are encouraged to call ahead at (320) 248-7784.  The tours are free.

The Kraemer Lake - Wildwood County Park is located just southwest of St. Joseph off County Road 51.

Also, St. John's Outdoor University is hosting their annual Maple Syrup Festivals in the Abbey Arboretum this Saturday and next Saturday from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m.

The festivals include tours and sap collecting, tapping demonstrations, historical talks, wagon rides and more.  The afternoon ends with free hot maple syrup sundaes.

There is a small fee to attend the festivals, call (320) 363-3163 to register.

Maple Syruping has been an annual rite of spring at St. John's since the 1940's when sugar shortages prompted the monastery to learn the production process.