By CHERIL VERNON
A parade, downtown festival, live music and activities for all ages are planned for the opening weekend of the 75th Annual Dogwood Trails Celebration on Saturday, March 16 in Palestine.
Festivities will kick off with the Dogwood Trails Parade at 10 a.m. March 16 with the theme “Dogwoods and Diamonds.”
“Traditionally, a 75th anniversary is the diamond anniversary which is why we chose the ‘Dogwoods and Diamonds’ theme. We think it will be a really neat tradition to be a part of it, a very family-oriented event where the kids can play in the Kids Zone, dad can listen to the music and mom can shop downtown — something for everybody,” Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Meghan Hill said Tuesday.
Deadline to have a judged float entry in the parade is Friday. After Friday, float entries will not be eligible for the judging. First-prize float wins a $300 prize.
“This year’s parade theme is ‘Diamonds and Dogwood: A Dynamic Duo,’ Hill said. “We encourage everyone to dress up as a type of famous duo from Batman and Robin to Cleopatra and Anthony to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — current day, past or present. So far I’ve seen some creative entries.”
This year’s parade will travel a special route starting at the Anderson County Courthouse and heading down Crawford Street, going through Old Town, turning left on Sycamore Street then right on Main Street. Judging will be held in front of the Chamber of Commerce building.
“From the feedback we get, that’s what people prefer,” Hill said about the parade route. “Merchants in Old Town love the parade going through there. Dogwood Trails is one of their busiest days and taking the parade through there let’s people be aware of the great merchants and businesses we have in Old Town.”
The Dogwood Trails Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Palestine with arts and crafts and food vendors, live music and activities for children.
More than 75 vendors will sell everything from hairbows to handmade purses to artwork and salsa during the festival. Normal festival fare such as funnel cakes, corn dogs, turkey legs, sausage-on-a-stick and more will be available from various food vendors.
“There will be everything you can think of including a couple of new vendors such as local business Rump’s Barbecue, which will be doing fried fish and shrimp,” Hill said. “There’s also going to be brisket, quesadillas, burritos and all the favorites like chocolate-covered strawberries and cheesecake.”
Featured on the Family Stage will be the band Deep South at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with Professor QB the Clown to perform with shows at noon, 1:15 and 2:45 p.m.
On the Sawdust Stage in The Hollow in Old Town, live music will include Craig Wayne Boyd performing from noon to 2 p.m. and Brandon Rhyder performing from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Ben E. Keith is sponsoring the events on this stage and will be bringing a mobile Bud Light bar.
“It’s an outside bar that has seating and TVs. They also will have green beer since it will be so close to St. Patrick’s Day.” Hill said. “It’s free to listen to the music and in a beautiful location.”
In the Kids Zone, children of all ages can enjoy inflatables, obstacle courses, bungie jump, Mind Winder, pony rides, mini train rides, dunking booth, duck derby, mechanical bull, rock wall and more.
“This is the first weekend of three full weekends of events. We have brochures available at the Chamber office people can pick up or we can email or mail to them,” Hill said. “A couple of blocks down from the festival, the Cars of Palestine will be holding their annual show which brings in a lot of people. Sacred Heart Catholic Church will be holding their own festival, the Herald-Press will have a community garage sale and the Master Gardeners will be doing their big tree sale next to the Federal Building. There is a plethora of events that everyone can be a part of.”
The Palestine Visitor Information Center as well as other downtown businesses are selling the commemorative Dogwood Trails mason jars for $10 each. Proceeds go toward downtown revitalization.
“It’s a neat piece of Dogwood Trails history and there are so many things you can do with a Mason jar,” Hill said.
The festival was moved up a week due to early dogwood blooms the last few years.
“Traditionally, dogwoods have been blooming earlier and earlier because it gets warm so quickly in Texas,” Hills said. “Talking to horticulturists the other day, we have a good chance for dogwoods to bloom the weekend of the festival, but we have to let Mother Nature do her thing.”
For more information about the Dogwood Trails Celebration, visit www.texasdogwoodtrails.com or call the Chamber office at 903-729-6066.
“We have all of the events for all three weekends up on the website, as well as a history of the festival, a dogwood bloom watch and giveaways,” Hill said. “I would encourage everyone to go to the website.”