Missouri Chestnut Roast attracts thousands

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NEW FRANKLIN - Organizers said they expect anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 people attended the 11th annual Missouri Chestnut Roast Saturday, where families got to sample roasted chestnuts and learn more about agroforestry.

Mike Gold, the Center for Agroforestry interim director, said his team created the event at the Horticulture and Agroforesty Research Center for people to learn what researchers actually do at the farm.

"Our mission is to try to find new, alternative speciality crops for the family farm," he said.

These crops include walnuts, pecans, and most importantly for the festival, chestnuts. And Gold said this is what makes the roast so unique.

"There are pecan festivals, there are walnut festivals, there are tomato festivals, and there are pumpkin festivals," he said. "So we thought, 'let's have a chestnut roast.'"

Gold said the roast gives families the opportunity to do something new.

"Many people have heard of chestnuts and never eaten one," he said. "They know that 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire' are lyrics to a song, but they don't know that actually happens."

The Missouri Chestnut Roast also included tours of the farms, live music, local artists, crafters, educational booths and face painting for children.

Gold said the event offers recipes and free chestnuts samples to hopefully boost their popularity.

"They'll go into the market and say, 'Gee I want a couple pounds of chestnuts for Thanksgiving dinner,'" he said.

Gold said the Missouri Chestnut Roast will happen again next year in early October.

"We think about what new things we might do, so we're very very open to ideas," he said.