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The Orchard partners with Penland School
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The Orchard partners with Penland School

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If you drove by Keith Moir’s Spruce Pine studio during the last month, you would find him with either a jigsaw or paintbrush in hand.

It’s all part of a collaboration between the Orchard at Altapass and Penland School of Craft.

“This unprecedented global situation that has made it impossible for the Orchard to safely hold music performances, has allowed us an opportunity to focus energies on another part of our mission — education and, by extension, our youngest visitors,” said executive director Beth Hilton. “We’re trying to do more to help kids understand what the Orchard is all about. Not only the apples but the pollinators, the land, and its musical heritage.”

To that end, the Orchard gathered images, which with the help of Penland staff person Keith Moir, were transferred onto plywood and are being transformed into colorful stand-up props that will be situated around the orchard grounds.

A photo opportunity for moms and dads and a fun way for kids to find out about the Orchard. Each of the six props will be part of a scavenger hunt designed for the younger crowd and feature the ubiquitous apple and its great pollinator, the honey bee, the brilliant monarch butterfly and caterpillar, a tractor, which no orchard can be without, a train representing the Clinchfield Railroad, developer of the original orchard, and a happy banjo player picking those tunes from a time long past.

“We hope to educate our kids about the Orchard and its heritage in an engaging, entertaining way,” Hilton added. “Our collaboration with Penland School has helped tremendously, and we thank them for their assistance with this project. It’s one silver lining in this new normal.”

Children will be able to have their pictures taken as a worm in an apple, playing the banjo, riding a tractor or a train, buzzing or flapping, all while experiencing the magic of the Orchard ecosystem of trees, fresh air, verdant trails, critters both creeping and flying, and an occasional ripe fruit off one of the hundreds of heirloom apple trees. The props should be completed within a few weeks, just in time for more ripe apples. Please visit Facebook for updates on the installations and all Orchard happenings.

The Orchard is at 1025 Orchard Road near Spruce Pine at mile marker 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3), working orchard, heritage, and educational venue.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., open Thursday-Sunday. Family- and pet-friendly. Wheelchair accessible. For information, please visit or call 828-765-9531.

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