published Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Learning is a walk in the park

With harmonica, songs and stories, nationally acclaimed naturalist and folklore expert Doug Elliott led a group from the Museum Center at Five Points on a walk through Fletcher Park in Cleveland, Tenn., on Saturday.
With harmonica, songs and stories, nationally acclaimed naturalist and folklore expert Doug Elliott led a group from the Museum Center at Five Points on a walk through Fletcher Park in Cleveland, Tenn., on Saturday.
Photo by Randall Higgins.

IF YOU GO

What: "Vanishing Appalachia" at the Museum Center at Five Points, 200 E. Inman St.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

Nonmember admission: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, free to children under 5, $4 each for groups of 12 or more. Free on the first Saturday of each month.

Information: www.museumcenter.org

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Getting a folklore education is as much fun as a walk in the park.

Doug Elliott -- naturalist, storyteller and humorist -- proved that Saturday as he led a group through Cleveland's Fletcher Park. The walk meandered through woods, open land and down by Candies Creek.

Pokeweed, dandelions, bugs and animal tracks caught Elliott's eye, and he shared stories, songs and useful advice with the nearly two dozen members and friends of the Museum Center at Five Points who joined him.

Weeds inspired songs and harmonica tunes along the way, including a rendition of "Poke Salad Annie.''

"As a kid growing up in Maryland, he was turning over every rock and bringing home every critter,'' said Tracy O'Connell, the museum center's gift shop manager, as she introduced Elliott to the group. His books and CDs are being added to the gift shop's offerings, she said.

Elliott got to Fletcher Park before the group and took a walk himself.

"I always look for anything I have a story or song about,'' he said.

Did he find something?

"Oh, I found lots of useful and interesting things, from honeysuckles to wild cherries,'' he said.

"I can get out of the car and start talking,'' he said. "But I'd like to know a little about the place first.''

Elliott has performed or presented programs at festivals, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers and schools from Canada to the Caribbean. He has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., and lectured at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The ramble through Fletcher Park was part of the museum's ongoing exhibit, "Vanishing Appalachia.'' The exhibit is available through June 30.

Elliott's visit was sponsored by Jordan Fabricating Inc. The exhibit is sponsored by Cooke's Food Store and Pharmacy.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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