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Cataloochee Ranch commemorates the chestnut tree

Come celebrate the return of the great American chestnut tree Saturday, Sept. 10, at Cataloochee Ranch outside Maggie Valley.

This second-annual event features live bluegrass music by Hazel Creek, clogging demonstrations, crafts (including wood-turned bowls, pine needle baskets, stained glass, handcrafted wooden benches, pottery and paintings), and a tour of one of the American Chestnut Foundation’s most successful research orchards, located on the ranch grounds.

For centuries, the American chestnut was the dominant tree of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Mississippi. It was a fast-growing deciduous hardwood that reached 150 feet in height and 10 feet in diameter. But, in 1904, a deadly airborne fungus was introduced into the United States; by 1949, nearly four billion chestnut trees were lost.

Cataloochee Ranch is helping the American Chestnut Foundation bring back this tree, borrowing genetic code from the Chinese chestnut, which is blight resistant. By using the backcross method, researchers are working on a new tree that has just enough of the Chinese variety to be blight-resistant, but has the dominant characteristics of the original American chestnut. The ranch’s chestnut orchard is in its fifth growing season.

Tickets for the event are $10, and children 12 and under will be admitted free.

The night before, on Friday, Sept. 9, a fundraising dinner with entertainment and live auction will be held beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets to the steak dinner are $80 per person, or $120 per couple, which includes a one-year membership to the American Chestnut Foundation.

828.926.1401 for dinner reservations. For more information about Chestnut Saturday, call Richard Coker at 828.926.1345.

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