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Darden Mill plans ‘Big Bash’

October 24, 2013
The Inter-Mountain

Go wild! Celebrate our forests! Launch a brand new West Virginia children's book! Enjoy it all Nov. 9 at the Darden Mill in Elkins, where artists, musicians, historians, naturalists and one brave turtle will join forces to share their love of West Virginia.

Just in time for Christmas, a new West Virginia children's book has been released, "The Pests that Girdle the Home of Tucker the Turtle." The star of the book is Tucker, an Eastern box turtle who was born and raised in Pendleton County. Through the telling of his story, Tucker shares the changes that he has seen as non-native invasive species have spread across his home. Disappearing are his friends, the spring wildflowers. Dying are his neighbors the hemlocks. And moving in are all kinds of strange, new critters.

"We were inspired to write this book because we love the mountains of West Virginia and the natural wonders that they contain," said one of the authors, Cynthia Sandeno. "By sharing Tucker's story, we hope to encourage children to see the beauty that surrounds them and to become protectors of our natural places."

Article Photos

Submitted photo
Molly Swailes is shown here ceremoniously signing her original watercolor illustrations that will be auctioned at Tucker’s Big Bash.

To celebrate the release of the new book, the Potomac Highlands Cooperative Weed and Pest Management Area and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) are sponsoring a one-of-a-kind party - Tucker's Big Bash. This event will feature a book signing by the authors and illustrator, a reading of the book, an art auction of all the original watercolors, snacks and hands-on activities for children.

This extraordinary event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 9, and will celebrate the history, culture and natural heritage of the Appalachian forest of West Virginia. For the first time in several decades, the Darden Mill will open its doors to the public to celebrate the launch of Tucker's book.

That weekend, the Darden Mill will be having its Grand Opening, with an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 8 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 9.

Built in 1902, the Darden Mill is a historic building that once supplied the area with flour, cereals and animal feed. Located on the corner of First Street and Railroad Avenue in Elkins, the building is now owned and operated by a local non-profit organization, Citizens for Historical Opportunity, Preservation and Education (C-HOPE). The group has renovated the building and created a great space for historic exhibits.

During Tucker's Big Bash, visitors will be able to enjoy the first of these exhibits, "Discovering the Appalachian Forest." The exhibit was designed by Molly Swailes, an AmeriCorps member with AFHA and the illustrator of Tucker the Turtle's book.

"The focus of our exhibit is the role of the forest in shaping people's lives, both throughout history and in the present day," said Molly. "I find it exciting that this story will be told both through the exhibit and the newly released children's book."

"Tucker's Big Bash is free and open to the public, but we encourage everyone to bring their cash and checkbooks," said Beth Simon, an event coordinator. "You are going to want to pick up a copy of the book and at least one of its


All proceeds from the event will go towards a great cause - increasing environmental education and outreach in West Virginia, as well as on-the-ground efforts to treat non-native invasive species.

Tucker the Turtle hopes you will join him for a fun-filled afternoon. By coming and learning more, you can help make a difference in West Virginia. As Tucker states at the end of his book, "The pests that threaten our forests and rivers, I will fight them to the end. Linked arm-in-arm with friends like you, to help these places mend."

Special thanks to all the sponsors who have generously supported this event, including: C-HOPE, Talbott Frame Shop, Main Line Books and the Elkins/Randolph County YMCA.

For more information about non-native invasive species, please visit

For more information about Tucker's Big Bash, please contact Tucker at



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