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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A look into Denton’s chair spectacle

Article Originally Published by Hannah Johnson on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Hannah Johnson on North Texas Daily

Chairs of all shape, age and size sit nestled between two homes in the Chairy Orchard found on Churchill Drive in the north side of Denton. This eclectic collection of chairs is one of Denton’s most unique attractions. 

The Chairy Orchard was started in the summer of 2015 by Judy Smith and Anne Pearson. Placed on the empty lot between their two homes, approximately 350 chairs make up this Denton oddity. 

“We just kind of ran with it because we thought it was fun,” said Judy Smith, Chairy Orchard co-owner and former owner of Rose Costumes. “It made us laugh.”

Longtime friends, neighbors and co-workers Smith and Pearson call themselves the “Chairy Fairies.” The idea for the Chairy Orchard began nearly 20 years ago when Smith was going down Sherman Drive and saw a tree covered with chairs on the lot of a large house. Smith then started attaching chairs to the tree between their homes and called it the Chairy Tree. 

As more chairs continued to be added, the Chairy Tree soon blossomed into the Chairy Orchard. 

“We aimed for a hundred [chairs],” said Anne Pearson, co-creator and Denton resident of more than 40 years. “Well, that took no time at all.” 

The lot between Smith and Pearson’s homes remained empty for several years as FEMA declared it a floodway and no property was allowed to be built. Since the chairs are not structures, they can stay on the property. 

The property has never flooded, but the chairs in the orchard are at the mercy of the weather. This means the orchard changes in some way every week. Once chairs become worn down they are laid to rest in the “Cemechairy.”

To keep up with the overturn of chairs, Smith and Pearson go to garage sales in Denton every Saturday to find replacements. Other chairs in the orchard are donated by visitors. 

Chairy Orchard visitors make the orchard a community project as visitors often give ideas to Smith and Pearson about new additions that could be made. 

“Everything is a pun,” Smith said. “We don’t think of all those.”

Punny features include the Lemon Tree, a tree filled with yellow chairs, the Chairosel and the “Arm” chair.

There is no admission cost to the orchard, but there is a “chairity for the orchard.” In the souvenir shop located in what they call the “Red Fridge,” bottled water, pens and postcards are sold for $2. This money goes towards new chairs, a lawn company to maintain the lot and the rest is donated to Our Daily Bread, a local nonprofit that feeds and cares for homeless and at-risk community members. 

Pearson and Smith say that the great thing about the Chairy Orchard is that visitors are allowed to enjoy the orchard however they want. With different designs and features of the orchard, this can be taking photos, playing on the seesaw or rearranging the chairs. 

“We don’t care what they do with the chairs, [or] what they do with anything,” Smith said. “There are no rules.” 

Smith and Pearson aim for the Chairy Orchard to have a personality like Denton. They said the orchard draws people to community and shows visitors that the city is a unique place where people can explore and find something unique or eccentric. 

“We like it to represent that Denton is a little different than other towns,” Smith said. “It allows things like this.” 

Psychology and integrative studies junior Lilli Xiang said the unusualness of the orchard is what drew her to visit. 

“The Chairy Orchard is a unique hangout place with a vintage feel to it,” Xiang said. “It’s a great place to take pictures and explore a hidden gem in Denton.”

Chairs are not the only feature to look at in the orchard. This past year, two free libraries were added where visitors can borrow a book or take a book home. 

Smith and Pearson said they have enjoyed watching parents take a book out of the library and find a spot to read to their children. 

“We just love that,” Pearson said. “That’s not the time we’re in right now.” 

In their early eighties, Smith and Pearson are unsure of how the orchard may look in the next 10 or 15 years. They know the orchard needs daily upkeep which means it would be a big burden to take on, Smith said.

Despite the uncertainty of the Chairy Orchard’s future, Smith and Pearson keep a carefree attitude about it. Pearson said if the Chairy Orchard does not stay, then somebody will have to haul all the chairs to the curb. 

“But it will not be our problem,” Smith said. 

Featured Image: Creators of the Chairy Orchard Judy Smith (left) and Anne Pearson (right) pose in front of their orchard. June 19, 2021. Image by John Anderson

Source: North Texas Daily

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