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Whenever Kathleen Barnes demonstrates the intricate art of weaving cane for chair seats, she is certain to draw a crowd.

Her fingers engage in a delicate dance as she twists and pulls the strands into a delicate pattern that is both attractive and, with care, will last for decades.

"It's something of a lost art," said Barnes, who has been plying her craft for about a dozen years. "There aren't a lot of shortcuts you can take. You have to go slow and take your time."

Indeed, the seven-step process involved in caning a chair typically takes between eight and 10 hours. Though she charges customers for her work, it's mostly a hobby. However, Barnes said such skills were essential for 19th century inhabitants of Hernando County.

"I don't think anyone back then considered just how time-consuming these crafts were," Barnes said. "I think that's one of the reasons why so many people are still fascinated by them."

As she has done for the past eight years, Barnes will demonstrate her chair-caning talents Saturday at the Chinsegut Nature Center's annual Pioneer Day festival. The event will also feature a number of craftspeople demonstrating such essential pioneer skills as butter churning, soap making, quilting, spinning and palm frond weaving.

Chinsegut director Kristen Wood said the festival has become a favorite event with folks who wish to find a connection with their ancestors' past.

"I think that people sometimes take modern conveniences for granted, and this allows them a chance to see what life was like back then," Wood said. "It's a great experience for kids."

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

If you go

The annual Pioneer Day festival will feature horse-drawn wagon rides, old-fashioned children's games, hearth cooking and pioneer craft demonstrations, plus historical exhibits. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. on the grounds of the Chinsegut Nature Center, 23212 Lake Lindsey Road, west of U.S. 41, north of Brooksville. Activities are free. Food items and products made during the event will be available for purchase. Call 754-6722.