Palestine Magazine January 2019 - Page 11

DOGWOOD TRAILS A new face for Dogwood in 2019 C elebrating its 81st anniversary, the Dogwood Trails Fes- tival is the state’s longest running Dogwood Festival. It all happens in Palestine’s charming Historic Downtown and Old Town district. The festival kicks off the first of three weekends with locals and guests celebrating the beautiful Dogwood blooms of East Texas. Since 1938, Palestine has celebrated the first sign of spring – the blooming dogwood tree – with an annual festival. Each year, Pal- estine puts on the Dogwood Trails Festival the last two weeks of March and the first weekend in April. How did it all start? In the spring of 1938, Charles W. Wooldridge, the power company manager, and Eugene Fish, a lo- cal bank president, met for a casual cup of coffee. Commenting on the almost unique beauty of the area’s dogwood trees, the men agreed Palestine should have a dogwood trail. Inspired, Wooldridge visited the local newspaper, suggesting not only creating the trail but also inviting outsiders to visit and enjoy the scenic splendor. Newspaper articles throughout the state drew more than 20,000 visitors to Palestine the first year. Attendance doubled the second year and the event became an annual staple. During the early years, the trails were roughly routed over un- covered country roads where sightseers could see the beautiful blooms. Eventually local landowners E.W. and H.R. Link gave visitors access to land full of blossoms, allowing proper, yet crudely cut, trails to be constructed. The first true trail opened in 1941. In February 1944, the event moved to a central spot, after M.A. Davey, a Palestine oilman, deeded 254 acres, now known as the Davey Dogwood Park, to Anderson County. Today, this park has more than five and a half miles of hard-surfaced roads, winding through a dazzling display of dogwood trees with white and pink blooms. Dogwood trees native to Palestine are the white cornus florida, which grow along the east coast, parts of the Gulf of Mexico, and northeast Texas. Palestine and the surrounding area boasts one of the highest concentrations of cornus florida dogwoods in Texas. Over the years, the Texas Dogwood Trails celebration has drawn thousands of tourists. This year’s Dogwood Trails Festival is sched- uled to start March 23. The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the event. Gates open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the down- town festival is $1 per person. Children 12 and under enter free. Proceeds from the gates will be donated to local non-profit organi- zations. Entry to the KidsZone is free. The event will include a parade, arts, crafts, retail vendors, food, a beer garden, a kids zone, live entertainment and music, and art galleries. “We are moving away from the status quo festival of get your funnel cake around the corner, to an upscale arts and music fes- tival, with art shows, buskers performing for tips, concert in the Old Town Hollow, and an art competition that will include local youth,” said Michele Merryman Bell, director of the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce. “It may be a couple of years before it really evolves into what we are envisioning, but we are excited about our new direction.” The festival will still include the parade, food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and a children’s play area. But it also will feature displays by artists statewide, a youth art show, and street per- formers throughout downtown. “We will have a special area, or tent, for the art showcase,” Merryman Bell said. “And the buskers will be true street perform- ers who open their cases and work the crowd for tips.” William Young has agreed to create an artistic poster as the event’s main keepsake, like the “Blue Dog” posters used for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He has agreed to provide art for the festival for the next five years. “We’ll use the art to make posters, postcards, and T-shirts people can purchase,” Merryman Bell said. “A limited number will be numbered and signed by the artist.” On the Old Hollow Sawdust Stage, acoustic music will start at noon, with headliners taking the stage at 6 p.m. This year’s con- cert music lineup includes Curtis Grimes. Beyond the festival, there will be two more weeks of activities for locals and visitors. “Mary Raum, director of Visit Palestine, has worked very hard to arrange events and activities that promote the Dogwood Tri- als,” Merryman Bell said. “It’s a combination of art and nature. Themes to each of the weekends and the festival are seemingly working in tandem with one another.” JANUARY 2019 11