10bThe 42nd annual Fayetteville Dogwood Festival lands in “America’s Can Do City” April 26-28, with entertainment for all ages. The 2024 “Blooms, Spring & Community” theme evokes the festival’s original spirit by focusing on classic fair favorites and celebrating the season's beauty. Just as “The City of Dogwoods”— the nickname former Mayor Bill Hurley gave Fayetteville when the inaugural 1982 Dogwood Festival was launched — comes alive this time of year with spring blooms, fragrance and color, it also creates festival fever each fourth weekend in April. Join the fun Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. in downtown Fayetteville.
Dogwood Festival board member Jackie Tuckey explained this year’s theme.
“In 1982, businesses, civic organizations and an army of volunteers all worked together to bring blooms, spring and community to downtown Fayetteville. Over the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival's 42-year run, downtown Fayetteville began its launch to where it is today — a cultural arts hub with trendy residential housing and relaxing city streets. This year's Festival begins where it started, bringing blooms, spring and community to downtown Fayetteville.”

The Fayetteville Dogwood Festival truly is a Fayetteville community tradition that brings droves to downtown and Festival Park. From Mayor Hurley’s proclamation that followed a concentrated civic effort to plant dogwoods, to the 18-mile driving trail aptly named the Dogwood Trail which meanders through the historic and beautiful city neighborhoods, to the varied events surrounding the festival held at different times in its tenure, the Dogwood Festival helps define Fayetteville. These events include some 35 festival-related activities including a golf tournament, a fashion show, a 10K run, a chili cook-off, a rodeo, a parade and in recent years, Fayetteville After Five. The event has run consecutively for the last 42 years except in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2017 festival, with over 250,000 visitors, brought the largest crowds to date.

The Dogwood Festival organization is an independent, nonprofit organization with a board of volunteers that handles the logistics of bringing Fayetteville’s largest downtown event to life. Without an executive director this year, the board and many volunteers have stepped up their game and weathered various challenges to keep the Dogwood Festival on the calendar. Recent financial issues led the board to hire a consulting group to make recommendations for the festival’s future. Tuckey said the festival is now debt-free and will consider the group’s suggestions, which included charging admission and moving the event away from Festival Park after this year. None of the proposals are on this year’s agenda.
“We're all hard at work at dispelling that notion that spread around town that we were charging admission (this year) to come to the festival,” Tuckey commented. “There is not an entry fee.”
However, according to board members, the festival’s financial status from last year to as recent as March, coupled with rising costs and staffing deficits, led the organization to forego high-profile musical acts, Cork & Fork and a few other regular components this year. Still, the board projects 300,000-plus visitors and another resounding success for the 2024 Fayetteville Dogwood Festival.
“It's going to be a great time. It's going to be great weather, and we want everybody to come downtown and enjoy themselves,” Tuckey said. She and the Dogwood team are grateful for all the individuals and organizations that have helped make the 2024 event possible and extend a “thank you to all the many businesses and volunteers that work so hard for our community event each year,” she said.

Sponsors play a huge role in bringing a function this size to town. Look for these 2024 supporters in tents and booths along the upper end of the festival promenade: Healy Wholesale Co., Inc. and PWC, Fayetteville’s Hometown Utility, premier sponsors; NC Education Lotter, Fort Liberty Federal Credit Union, ABC 11 Together, Cape Fear Valley Health, Metronet, SHARONVIEW® Federal Credit Union, Veterans Guardian, Anstead’s Tobacco; Smithfield® Foods and Dick’s House of Sport, patron sponsors; and the Fayetteville Observer
and Up & Coming Weekly, media partners.

Further down the promenade and in other parts of the festival’s footprint, well-loved and festival-favorite fair food is a major draw. Fayetteville native Michael’s Amusements features fair-culture concessions, from candy apples and popcorn to funnel cakes and rolled ice cream — and more. Other food vendors include Cinnabon, Mike Nice Empanadas, Kona Ice, Moose Joose Slush, Crabdaddy’s, Asian Grill & Rice, Cool Breezes pineapple drinks and other need-to-have noshes such as turkey legs, roasted corn, fried Oreos and other tasty treats.

Eat and ride, or ride and eat — which is the best order? While only your body knows the answer, the highly anticipated Dogwood Festival Midway, located at the corner of Mason Street and Ray Avenue in the Masonic Lodge parking lot, begs the question. Whichever works, a visit to the Midway is a must.
Michael’s Amusements provides rides and entertainment for all ages for $1 a ticket or a $25 book of tickets for $20. On Friday night, a wristband is available for purchase for $25. Tickets are sold by cash only at the festival, but ATMs are available. Experience the thrill of adrenaline-pumping rides such as Zero Gravity, Scat or the new Chair Jet, traditional favorites like the Ferris wheel, Hustler and Spinner and family and kid-friendly attractions including the Fun Slide, Merry go Round, Elephant ride, Wacky Shack, Crazy Dragster and Castle Mania. Leave time to play some games and try your luck at winning a prize.
For kid-friendly fun off the Midway, visit the Dick's House of Sport sports-themed activity area in Festival Park Friday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Giant Jenga and chess, corn hole and batting cages are examples of what’s in store.

Tuckey said that craft and commercial vendors take over the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Hay Street and Ray Avenue from the traffic light to the circle for the annual Downtown Street Fair, a combination of artisan wares, foods, services and unique finds. Numerous vendors are from Fayetteville and the surrounding area.
“It’s a nice mix,” Tuckey stated, “but I would have to say that most of our vendors are from right here or from within the state.”

Music takes a prime spot on the Dogwood Festival menu. Bring your lawn chair and relax while tuning into the following offerings.
• Friday night, Riser Burn, the 82nd Airborne Band and Chorus Rock Band, makes their first Dogwood Festival appearance. The group will entertain fairgoers with rock, pop, country and a wide variety of music on the Festival Park main stage from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Kelvin "the Greek" Culbreth from Cumulus Media’s WRCQ Rock 103. 5 has the mic before the night’s headliner beginning at 3 p.m.
• Saturday’s selection includes The Christian Rock Experience from noon to 3 p.m. featuring Two Dimensional and Set for the Fall. Dogwood Festival newcomer Latino DJ Jose Luis Robles takes to the stage from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nicholas Vernon, CCMA 2023 Male Vocalist of the Year Nominee will perform traditional country music.
• On Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., popular DJ Ronny Parrish of Unlimited Sounds returns, bringing the crowd involvement, games and great music he is known for.

Entertainment from various cultural groups and martial artists will take to the streets on Saturday and Sunday. Shadows of the Fire member Debbie Pernat Belles will lead the performance area in front of the Market House, facing Hay Street. Add the following line-up to your Dogwood “to-do” list.

Noon Fatal Attraction Dance Team
12:30 p.m. Elevo Dynamics
1 p.m. Yvette’s Dance Academy
1:45 p.m. Aloha Ka’Naka O Hula Halua Hawaiian dancers
2:30 p.m. Canton Attilium, Society of Creative Anachronism medieval/renaissance re-enactment
3:15 p.m. Shadows of the Fire belly dancing
4 p.m. Aloha Ka’Naka O Hula Halua Hawaiian dancers
4:45 p.m. Martial Arts demonstration team
5:15 p.m. Shadows of the Fire belly dancing

Noon Shimmy Mob
12:45 p.m. Aloha Ka’Naka O Hula Halua Hawaiian dancers
1:30 p.m. Canton Attilium, Society of Creative Anachronism medieval/renaissance re-enactment
2:15 p.m. Shadows of the Fire belly dancing
3 p.m. Aloha Ka’Naka O Hula Halua Hawaiian dancers
3:45 p.m. Heartsong Tribal
4:30 p.m. B Dopp
5:15 p.m. Shadows of the Fire belly dancing

Another festival first specifically benefits the therapeutic needs of children with special needs and also typically developing children. Fayetteville’s Bravery Kids Gym is an inclusive indoor play facility that "provides an opportunity for children of all abilities to gain healthy social interactions, sensory and motor development, and quality time with loved ones,” per the organization’s mission statement. Youth from birth to 18 and adults can enjoy the gym’s sensory-friendly, mobile play space during the festival. Bravery Kids Gym’s therapy-inspired equipment provides a unique experience of “play with a purpose” in a fun, safe and stimulating learning environment. The activities are free, and additional equipment, including noise-reducing headphones and weighted vests, will be available for check-out with proper identification for festival-wide use. Look for Bravery Kids Gym in Festival Park on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

Don’t miss this Dogwood Festival first on Sunday: The Classic Car-Motorcycle-Truck Cruise ‘N at the 400-block corner of Hay and Ray from noon to 4 p.m. Replacing the former Car, Motorcycle and Truck Show, the Cruise ’N promises to be a crowd pleaser with the cars as the stars. Members from the 18-year-tenured, 35-member-strong Stewardship Classic Car and Truck Club and Burger King Cruise ‘N and others in the car community will have their vehicles on display for the public to view during the event. To participate, email kstewardship63@gmail.com by 5 p.m. on April 25. The Cruise ‘N is not a competition.

Festival rules specify that the following items are not permitted:
Soliciting, weapons, canopies, coolers/outside containers, bicycles/Skateboards/rollerblades, pets (service animals permitted), drones (Aerial Toys or Equipment) without permission, inappropriate language or behavior.

Special event parking will be in effect throughout the festival. The City of Fayetteville parking website, https://live-park-fayetteville.pantheonsite.io/, provides these details: “The special event rate is a $5 flat rate that typically applies 2 hours before the beginning of the event at off-street City-owned parking lots and at the Hay and Franklin Street parking decks. On-street parking spaces are not subject to special event rates and are free on Saturdays and Sundays.”

It is not too late if you wish to donate time to the festival and get involved. Volunteers help with everything from setting up, serving and selling concessions, clean up and more. Visit
https://www.thedogwoodfestival.com/volunteer, and click the provided link to sign up and get details.
Immediate Past Dogwood Festival Chair, six-year board member and previous volunteer Tara Long, who is arranging the entertainment this year, expressed her excitement about this year’s line-up and the festival as a whole.
“I look forward to the Dogwood Festival; I think the whole town looks forward to it! It's a fun tradition, and there's something for everyone — big, small, young and older. And it's a free event! Come on down for the day to walk around, see the attractions, shop the vendors and eat yummy food," she said.
When at the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, engage using the hashtag #thedogwoodfest and follow these social media sites to stay up to date on all activities: https://twitter.com/thedogwoodfest?lang=en, www.facebook.com/thedogwoodfest/. Be sure to stop by the Up and Coming Weekly booth!

(Photo: An acrobat performs during a Dogwood Festival in Downtown Fayetteville.  Acrobatic are some of the many street performances that will be on display during the festival this year.  Image courtesy of 219 Group)

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