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Program 1318

1. photographer John Snell
2. an Adair County chestnut tree
3. dancer Will Geoghegan
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Fayette County

For more information:
John W. Snell Photography, 1308 Saddle Club Way, Lexington, KY 40504, (859) 254-1929 or (888) 310-4560

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographers: John Schroering, Jason Robinson
Audio: Noel Bramblett
Editors: Charlie Midkiff, Brad Spears

Eloquent Landscapes

photographer John Snell

In 1980, John Snell traded two pickup loads of firewood and $100 for an old camera. At the time, the other party may have thought he got the better deal. But Snell, who was employed as the director of Transylvania University’s computing center at the time, has parlayed the camera into a second career as a photographer. He is rapidly becoming known for his stunning landscape photos, which capture the vibrant colors and ever-changing moods of both urban and natural scenery.

In this profile, John takes us along on a shoot in one of his favorite places: the Red River Gorge. As a long-time lover of this scenic region of rugged natural arches and delicate wildflowers, he was determined to publish the first photographic study of the gorge. It took some time—not to mention a trip to China for a meeting with some publishers—but he met that goal in 2006 with the publication of Red River Gorge: The Eloquent Landscape (distributed through Acclaim Press).

A frequent exhibitor at book and arts fairs around Kentucky, John also has opened a small gallery in his Lexington home. It’s open by appointment.

Adair County

For more information:

American Chestnut Foundation, 469 Main St., Suite 1, P.O. Box 4044, Bennington, VT 05201, (802) 447-0110
• Kentucky Chapter: 1236 Camargo Rd., Mount Sterling, KY 40353, (859) 745-3123

Producer, videographer: Dave Shuffett
Editor: Jay Akers

Survivor: Adair County

American chestnut tree

The American Chestnut Foundation estimates that there were once four billion American chestnut trees in the forests of Appalachia and the Eastern Seaboard. Often reaching 100 feet high and eight or more feet in diameter, the chestnut grew exceptionally straight, yielding a relatively lightweight but rot-resistant wood that was used for everything from telegraph poles to musical instruments. Its pleasing shape and snow-white spring blossoms made it popular with landscape designers. And the tasty and nutritious nuts were an important cash crop; “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” became a holiday staple in the 19th century.

But by the middle of the 20th century, all that had changed. A blight accidentally introduced from Asia, first noticed by a New York zookeeper in 1904, ran rampant through American forests over the next several decades and almost succeeded in killing off this majestic tree. These days, the discovery of a mature American chestnut within the species’ natural range—especially one that shows evidence of resistance to the blight—is a cause for celebration among tree lovers and biologists alike.

One such discovery took place in Adair County in 1999, on a fencerow dividing two farms outside Columbia. There researchers confirmed that a 60-foot, 80-year-old tree was in fact a purebred American chestnut that had fought the blight and won, as evidenced by swellings called cankers. The tree also shows signs of having been hit by lightning and scarred by a run-in with a bulldozer. Yet it still produces nuts every year—although its fruit had been sterile for years because there was no other chestnut tree around to pollinate it.

To the researchers who are working to restore the American chestnut, this hardy Kentucky survivor was an incredible find. The largest known surviving American chestnut in the entire Southeast, it is now playing an important part in the effort to breed resistance to the Asian blight into the species. The painstaking process involves cross-breeding American chestnuts with a Chinese cousin that’s naturally resistant, then crossing the hybrid offspring with American trees. Through further crosses, the Chinese ancestor’s genetic contribution is minimized, with succeeding generations gradually approaching a “pure” American chestnut again. The trick, of course, is to retain the factors that confer blight resistance while weeding out other Asian characteristics. A pure American chestnut with its own built-in resistance would greatly accelerate the process. So the Adair County tree has been extensively studied and artificially pollinated in an effort to learn just how it survived a disease that nearly wiped out its species—and whether it can pass that ability on to offspring.

In this Kentucky Life visit, Dave rides a bucket truck to get a close-up look at the pollination process.

Franklin County

For more information:
Kentucky Ballet Theatre, 736 National Ave., Lexington, KY 40502, (859) 252-5245

Producers: Dave Shuffett, Jim Piston
Videographer: Dave Shuffett
Editor: Jim Piston

Staying on His Toes

dancer Will Geoghegan

Will Geoghegan has strong legs and a lot of determination, and he’s hoping the combination will carry him to Broadway.

This talented young dancer from Frankfort was just 15 when we met him in 2007, but he was already a veteran of regional and national dance competitions. While attending the prestigious Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, he has also appeared in several productions with Kentucky Ballet Theatre in Lexington. Kentucky Life host Dave Shuffett talks with Will about where he really wants to end up—New York and the Great White Way—and meets proud parents Cheryl and Malcolm Geoghegan.

Hardin County

For more information:
Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia, 109 Buffalo Creek Drive, Elizabethtown, KY 42701, (270) 234-1100

On Location

Dave hosts this edition from the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia, a 32,000-square-foot wonderland of Coke advertising items, toys and collectibles, and bottling and distribution equipment that grew out of the personal collections of a Hardin County family that’s been bottling the soft drink for several generations. This facility opened in 2005. Kentucky Life previously visited the collection, then housed in the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Center, in our Along Highway 62 road show.

SEASON 13 PROGRAMS: 1301130213031304130513061307/1326: The Lincoln Wedding130813091310

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