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Tree lovers swarm Willie McTell Trail

Annual Arbor Day celebration held downtown

Temperatures were chilly, and a good breeze was blowing, but people still ventured out Saturday morning to enjoy the third annual Arbor Day Festival at Willie McTell Park.
    The festival, hosted by Keep Bulloch Beautiful and the Georgia Southern University Botanical Gardens, drew a crowd that grew as the day progressed, with visitors enjoying the sunny day, the refreshments and the educational activities along the linear park.
    The most popular table appeared to be where the Botanical Gardens offered a variety of free trees. Carolyn Altman, educational coordinator for the gardens, explained which trees would be best for visitors and offered information as she and others handed out young river birch, scarlet oak, red maple, green ash, dogwood and pine trees.
    Volunteers painted kids' faces, and helped them make pine cone bird feeders by smearing a concoction of lard, cornmeal and bird seed onto pine cones.
    Children made "family" trees, and twig picture frames while others played a guessing game at the Georgia Forestry Commission table.
    It was an educational exhibit that helped people identify the pine and oak trees that grow locally, said Linwood McNure, ranger with the forestry commission. "It shows different trees, what they look like," and their leaves, needles and what the wood looks like when cut.
    Diane Harrell was dressed for the occasion with a sweatshirt decorated in trees, and earrings that were leaves with red ladybugs on them. She laughed as she admitted her reason for being at the festival - free trees.
    "I love trees," she said. She planned to line a driveway at her new residence with dogwoods, she said.
    At one table, Patrick Quinn, 6, and sister Maura Quinn, 8, were busy cutting and coloring paper to make finger puppets.
    Patrick said he was making a Christmas tree, but his favorite tree is an oak. He has one in his yard, and said oaks are his favorite because "I'm going to build a tree house."
    Maura said she prefers maple trees. "That's where you get maple syrup, and I love maple syrup," she said.
    Smoky Bear was also on hand, dancing his way down the pathway as he greeted and waved at visitors. McNure said the popular bear was with the Georgia Forestry Commission group and, as always, promoted fire safety and preventing forest fires.
    Volunteers cooked hot dogs and manned other booths as visitors roamed the area. Chris Short, intern with Keep Bulloch Beautiful, offered information about the organization as well as the chance to honor a loved one.
    "We have memorial trees," he said, displaying several metal plaques available. Interested parties could purchase a tree to be planted along the trail, commemorating a person of their choice.

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