Fayetteville’s annual celebration of spring is just around the corner. The dogwoods are getting ready to bloom and local residents, tired of cold winter days, are just itching to get outdoors and soak up some sun and enjoy one of the best weekends of the year – The Dogwood Festival. And organizers of the event have just one word to describe the upcoming festivities, “Fantastic!,” said Carrie King, the executive director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival. “There is not doubt we are going to have a great festival. This year’s event has a stellar lineup and we are ready!”
    Celebrating its 26th year, the festival continues to grow and is on its way to becoming one of the largest events in the Southeast. More than 100 arts, crafts and food vendors will fill the streets around Festival Park while local and national headliners are set to grace the main stage throughout the weekend of April 25-27. 
The festival was founded in 1982 by former Fayetteville Mayor Bill Hurley, along with several other city leaders. Their goal was to improve the image of the city and to create a unified force for community events. Hurley dubbed the city the “City of Dogwoods,” and Fayetteville residents have been celebrating the bloom and the fun it brings since then.
    From its humble beginnings, the event has grown, with last year’s festival bringing more than 150,000 people downtown over the three-day period. Economically, the event pumps more than $2.5 million into the city’s economy. Until 2000, the event was spread over a 10-day period; organizers decided to streamline the event and what they came up with was three action-packed days of fun. The move to compact the festival into three days didn’t change the basic premise – the festival would offer “something for everyone.” That holds true this year.
    If you are looking for arts and crafts, look no further. Visitors can expect to find virtually every kind of arts and crafts vendor possible. Vendors signed up to participate include pottery, paintings, jewelry, sculptures and much more. Once you’ve shopped ‘till you’ve dropped, be sure to follow your nose to the highlight of most festivals – the food court! You can expect to find some of your favorite foods on hand: gyros, funnel cakes, ice cream, ribbon fries and pineapple chicken will all be on the menu, as well as many of your other favorites. 
    In addition to all the arts and crafts that adults love, the Partnership’s Kidstuff, presented by the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, will feature a Sea Lion splash show, the all new Toddler Zone, which is an inflatable maze of castles and tunnels that the toddlers will love, face painting, interactive games, and the Partnership for Children’s Stage where kids get a chance to showcase their many talents as well as see some of the other amazing ensembles from around the county perform.
    Sponsor booths will be located on the Festival Park promenade and will feature fun giveaways and much more. You can even stop by to meet and greet with some of your favorite television and radio personalities. The Budweiser Clydesdales will be on hand on Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, on the 400 block of Hay Street, located in front of the Huske Hardware building. These icons are celebrating their 75th Anniversary and will be on display Friday night and throughout the day on Saturday.
    Music has become an essential staple during the weekend festivities, and that hasn’t changed. The 2008 Dogwood Festival has a wide array of diverse musical offerings to fill the springtime air in Festival Park. Local favorites like Joyner, Young & Marie, DL Token and In That Tone will be on hand, but so will regional performers Swampdawamp, Hot Sauce and Rough Draft. If that isn’t enough, national headliners Eddie Money and Vanessa Carlton will also put on rocking shows.  
    Although The Dogwood Festival celebration centers around April 25-27, a whole host of events have occurred before that date and will continue after. On Thursday, April 24, the Restore Warehouse will host a Recycle Art Show and early Friday, April 25, the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Crimestoppers will host its annual BBQ. In the days following the event, Givens Performing Arts Center will host Arthur Live! Arthur Tricks the Tooth Fairy on Tuesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Proving that age is only a number, the Cumberland County Seniors Beauty Pageant will take center stage on Friday, May 2; and on May 9-10, the ninth annual W.O.M.E.N.’s Expo will brighten up Cross Creek Mall.
    With all of that in mind, you may want to take a deep breath and just plunge into the spirit of the event, and the best place to do that is at Festival Park. The Dogwood Festival will kickoff with the 1st Annual Bloom & Boom Kickoff Party on Friday, April 25, at 7 p.m. The Bloom & Boom Kickoff Party will feature local favorites Joyner, Young & Marie on the main stage at 7 p.m., and Eddie Money at 9 p.m. The show will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display. Vendors will also be on hand, so bring the family out and enjoy Fayetteville at its best.
    On Saturday, April 26, the street festival starts at noon and runs through 10 p.m., and on Sunday it begins at 1 p.m. and runs through 6 p.m.
    “The layout of the event has changed somewhat this year,” said King. “We think it is more user friendly and we have more public parking.”
    That parking will be complemented by a park and ride shuttle service, something organizers are encouraging people to take advantage of. Attendees can park at the Department of Social Services, off Ramsey Street, and then ride over to the festival. Shuttles will run every 15 minutes.
Organizers remind people that animals and coolers are not allowed. Service animals are permitted.
There’s a whole host of events occurring in conjunction with the festival, and you aren’t going to miss even one of them. For complete information and a schedule of events, read on.

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