Palestine Celebrates 80 Years of Tradition with Dogwood Trails Festival

Over a cup of joe in 1938, a statewide celebration was born. Charles W. Wooldridge, the power company manager, and Eugene Fish, a bank president, met for coffee and the conversation led to the unusual and unique beauty of the dogwood trees in the area. It was then that the two businessmen agreed that Palestine should share them with out-of-town visitors. After making a trip to the local newspaper, the story garnered attention and ran in papers across the state, generating over 20,000 visitors in the first year. 

Over the next few years, locals helped to create new trails throughout the densest areas where the native dogwoods staked their claim. During World War II, the trails were all but abandoned due to fuel rationing, but local oilman M.A. Davey purchased the land where the trails were created and donated back to Anderson County for the creation of a public park.

This year marks the 80th anniversary celebration of the Dogwood with festivities kicking off on March 23 and continuing through April 8. Each year, the opening weekend features the Dogwood Trails Festival, an all-day event in the Palestine Main Street District within the heart of the community.  The festival is host to artisan and novelty vendors, a kids zone and live music, games and burgers in The Hollow. 

The festival is facilitated by the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce with support from Visit Palestine, Ben E. Keith and KYYK/KNET Radio. Through these sponsorships, the festival is able to provide free admission for all bands, including local bands Blindpursuit taking the Sawdust Stage 1-3 p.m. and Blacktop Mojo 4-6 p.m.

“With standout bands, and fun new activities like a scavenger hunt, and costume contest — not to mention the special commemorative cookie available at Eilenberger Bakery only on the 24th — we are looking forward to a festival that is a special celebration of our city and the diverse attractions it has to offer,” Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce representative Stephanie Wright said.

In addition to the festival, the Dogwood Trails Celebration includes stained glass window tours, historic and architectural tours, a pop up art gallery in the Carnegie Library, the 17th Annual Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival, the 33rd Annual Cars of Palestine Car Show and the 12th Annual Boston Porter Memorial Rodeo.

Continuing with tradition, Pilgrim Church will host their Gingerbread and Coffee event. New this year, the Shriners Club will be hosting a Children’s Magic Show at the Palestine Civic Center on March 25 from 3-4:30 p.m.

“With fresh new activities and some of our favorites coming back year after year, the 80th Anniversary Dogwood Trails Celebration won’t disappoint,” said Mary Raum, tourism marketing manager for the City of Palestine. “We expect the Dogwood blooms to be right on schedule this year and the blooming season has already put on a spectacular show.”

Events are scheduled for each weekend of the celebration, which takes place the last two weekends in March and the first weekend in April each year.

Contact the Palestine Visitor Center at 903-723-3014, or to request a free visitor’s guide or a copy of the Dogwood Trails Celebration brochure.

Follow the Dogwood Trails Festival on Facebook for all the latest details.

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