Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley is hosting a chestnut celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.
The festivities will honor the all-important role of chestnut trees for early Appalachian settlers and efforts to repopulate the mountains with a blight resistant form of the tree.
Attendees can tour the grounds of Cataloochee Ranch and the chestnut orchards. There will be live music by Balsam Range and the Trantham Family. Rob Gudger, a Maggie Valley man who raises wolves, will be there with his animals. There will be kids games, crafts and raffles. Lunches, drinks, fishing and horseback riding will be available for an extra cost.
Chestnuts once comprised nearly a quarter of the trees in the Southern Appalachian forest. Mountain communities depended upon the annual chestnut harvest as a cash crop and as a primary source of forage for their livestock, which were turned loose in the chestnut forests to gorge themselves and fatten up before the harvest. In addition, chestnut wood split straight and was rot resistant, making it ideal for everything from fence posts and barn frames to coffins and shingles.
Cataloochee Ranch is home to an experimental stand of blight-resistant chestnut trees developed by the American Chestnut Foundation. The strain has all the characteristics of the American chestnuts — but has just enough of the Chinese chestnut strain to make it blight resistant.
The chestnut reintroduction effort is a long-range project pushing scientific frontiers for forestry. It is a privately funded effort and contingent on donations. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the nonprofit American Chestnut Foundation.
Tickets are $10 for adults; children 12 and under are free.
A benefit dinner with live music and an auction to support the work of the American Chestnut Foundation will be held at Cataloochee Ranch at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.
The steak dinner is $100 a person or $160 a couple, and includes a year membership to the Foundation.
Auction items include a solid chestnut wood dining table, an original oil painting of the ranch by Jo Ridge Kelly pottery, wrought-iron coat rack, handmade jewelry, Cherry wood end tables and more.
The Waynesville Council of Garden Clubs is helping with the dinner and festival that day. 828.926.1345 or 828.926.1401.