Timed to coincide with our fair city’s showy display of pink and white blossoms, the 83rd annual Dogwood Festival invites festival goers to shed their boots and goose-down jackets for shorts and flip-flops April 12-14 and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Piedmont Park while enjoying an abundance of art, music and more.
In truth, the city has the festival to thank for its many blooming dogwood trees. They were planted at the urging of Walter Rich, founder of Rich’s department store, who started the festival. Held at locations throughout the city, the first festival in 1936 featured pageants, parades and performances by the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Symphony. World War II put a stop to the festival in 1941, but it was revived in 1964 and has been going strong ever since.
“It is the third oldest fine arts festival in the country,” said Brian Hill, executive director since 2007.
The festival’s main attraction is the juried Artist Market. More than 1,100 artists from across the country competed for the chance to participate.
“Every year we have new judges, and they’re gallery owners or professors, someone connected through their work with art,” said Hill. “Because the judges change every year, we’re guaranteed to have different art every year, along with returning artists, too.”
Only 260 artists were accepted, and they represent a variety of media, including painting, drawing, clay, metal, photography, fiber, wood, glass, jewelry and mixed media.
“These are artists who tour nationally, and it’s one of the first shows of the season, so a lot of collectors come to get first pick,” said Hill.
New to this year is a free Dogwood Festival app downloadable found in Google Play or the App store on the iPhone. It comes complete with a GPS locator map to identify the location of every artist and food vendor in the park, as well as performance schedules and a function that allows users to tag an artist they might want to pay a return visit.
“It’s going to make the experience a lot better for people,” said Hill. “You can get overwhelmed by the size of the park, and we’re all over the park.”
Besides the Artist Market, another big draw at the festival is the musical entertainment taking place on two stages. The Coca-Cola Main Stage presents local and regional bands playing country, rock, soul, blues and R&B. Performers include Southern Gothic string band Blood on the Harp, soul singer B. J. Wilbanks and Atlanta Soul Power, a James Brown tribute band.
The International Stage presents local dancers and musicians representing cultures from around the world, including the Atlanta Junkanoo Group, Calo Gitano Flamenco Dance Company and Taiwanese School of Georgia Drum Team.
Other highlights of the 83rd annual Dogwood Festival include:
Midway. There are more carnival rides than ever this year, and this time they’re tricked out with LED lights to create an illuminated spectacle on the Meadow. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel, carousel, tilt-a-whirl and more.
Disc Dog Southern Nationals. Hosted by the Greater Atlanta Dog & Disc Club, this popular event has become a major canine sporting event as the qualifying tournament for the World Finals held in Cartersville in November. Disc Dog demonstrations will be held at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. April 12. Competition begins 12:15 p.m. April 13 and 11:15 a.m. April 14. It’s free to watch, but for details on how to register for the competition, go to atlantadiscdogs.com.
Backyard Bites and Brews. Enjoy covered seating in the VIP tent with a view of the Coca-Cola Main Stage and sample food, brews and spirits by local restaurants, breweries and distilleries at this ticketed event held 1-5 p.m. April 12 and 13. Participating vendors include Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop, NaanStop, City Barbeque, Orpheus Brewing, Chattanooga Whiskey and Urbantree Cidery. $35-$60.
Party like a VIP. From 7-10 p.m. April 12 and 13, enjoy the comfort of watching the main stage entertainment from the VIP tent and dining on a barbecue dinner from J.D.’s Bar-be-cue. $20; $10 for ages 7-18.
Family Friday. From 2-9 p.m. April 12, a $20 wristband ($25 at the gate) provides unlimited access to all the Midway rides plus a 20 percent discount from select food and beverage vendors. This is a good time to come out early and beat the crowds. Be sure to take the youngsters to Kids Village near the central playground to get their faces painted and create arts and craft projects.
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