'Shoe Tree' memorial slated for this Sunday

A memorial to remember the "Shoe Tree" on U.S. Highway 50 two miles east of Middlegate will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The 70-foot cottonwood tree was cut down sometime before New Year's Eve. The rustic landmark had become a favorite stopping place for those traveling the highway. Hundreds of people flung their shoes, boots, sneakers and other footwear onto the tree.

The Bureau of Land Management is handling the investigation of the tree's destruction.

In early January Fredda Stevenson, who bought the Middlegate Bar and Restaurant 26 years ago, began planning the memorial at the site of the tree. The destruction of the Shoe Tree bothers Stevenson.

"I watched it grow up as a little tree," said Stevenson, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years.

A reward has not been established, but at the memorial, Stevenson said she will take up a collection if someone hasn't come forward to turn himself in.

"We cried. It's like losing a member of the family," she said.

Travis Anderson, a Middlegate bartender and Stevenson's grandson, said he first learned of the incident when several customers stopped at the Middlegate Bar and Restaurant and told him. Anderton said one patron told him the cut was fresh.

"Sawdust was over the snow. But I am curious why someone wants to do that," he said.

Adam Fortunate Eagle, Fallon artist and activist, along with his family, will begin the memorial by offering a blessing to the spirit of the tree that is still living in the remaining stump. He will also offer a blessing to those who attend the memorial.

Sunday's memorial will begin with ceremonial songs offered by the Native Americans, and then Stevenson who will begin the community memorial portion of the service.

Stevenson said readings of the poems, announcements concerning the tree and the disposal or the fate of the shoes will be discussed. She said people with special meaning shoes are invited to retrieve them and to put them in the daughter tree at the site. A plaque will be placed at the site.

"Also, all art work and photographs will be displayed at Middlegate with an open invitation to share yours," she said. "Finger snacks will be served. Please bring some to share."

The "Shoe Tree Conspiracy," a group of Northern Nevada and Burning Man artists who believe the tree was not only a landmark but also a work of art created by each individual who added their shoes to the tree, are working to create a permanent tribute to the "Shoe Tree."

Carpooling and caravanning to the "Shoe Tree" Memorial is encouraged.

"Shoe Tree Conspiracy" organizer Marshall Compton says those from the Reno area can meet at Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in the Ironhorse Shopping Center parking lot on the corner of Prater Way and McCarran Blvd. in Sparks. Scheduled departure time is 10 a.m.

People coming from other Northern Nevada rural communities can meet at the Fox Peak

gas station in Fallon at 615 E. Williams Ave., next to Banner Churchill Community Hospital at 10:45 a.m.


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