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Dogwood Days – This Party is in Full Bloom

Listen up, Fayetteville you don’t have to drive “A Thousand Miles” for great entertainment.

It’s coming to us April 25-27.

From headliner Vanessa Carlton to the Budweiser Clydesdales, the annual Dogwood Festival will have music, food, games, cars, pets and more. That’s not including all of the happenings leading up to the festival which has added a full slate of sanctioned events. This year’s festival is presented by Embarq.

It follows last year’s 25th anniversary celebration which set records for attendance, drawing more than 150,000 people who also came to open the new Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville.

The park was the perfect setting, said Carrie King, executive director of the Dogwood Festival. “It gave our community the opportunity to see what the city had been working so hard on,” she said. “It was a huge event, and it was very well-received by the public.”

“Festival Park is a beautiful park,” said Kelvin Culbreth, a member of the Dogwood board of directors and chair of the entertainment committee. “It is made for this kind of thing. The positives are just amazing with the stage and the lawn being downtown. It really is a jewel of the city.”

Fans poured into the park for teenage sensation JoJo. This year, organizers hope Vanessa Carlton will pack the house with her soft pop-rock sound. DL Token, a rock band out of Sanford, will open the night’s show before making way for Carlton who is best known for the hit song “A Thousand Miles.” And that’s not the only act coming to town.

Over the three days of the festival, eight performers will take to the stage. Eighties rocker Eddie Money will kick things off Friday night with opening act and local rock group Joyner, Young & Marie. On Saturday, local band In That Tone and Swampdadwamp, a Southern rock and country group out of Charlotte, will perform. R&B group Rough Draft will perform on Sunday followed by the sounds of the 1970s and ‘80s with Hot Sauce.

“Whatever kind of music you like, hopefully we will have an outlet for you,” King said.

Friday’s festivities begin at 6 p.m. with the Boom & Bloom Kickoff Party, featuring opening act and local rock group Joyner, Young & Marie, followed by Eddie Money and a fireworks show. Fourth Friday will be held in conjunction with the night’s activities.

“We are beefing it up on Friday,” King said. “You can bring your family down. We will have food vendors in the park on Friday. You can come down and grab dinner and a free show.”

On Saturday, events start at noon. On the heels of last year’s shark exhibit is a sea lion exhibit in the KidStuff section sponsored by the Cumberland County Partnership for Children. The theme is “Under the Sea.”

There will be plenty of arts and crafts and food to choose from including traditional fair food from hamburgers to funnel cakes. The midway returns with carnival rides and games.

The festival continues on Sunday with music featuring X plus the street fair, KidStuff and Lafayette Ford Car Show. Events start at noon and wrap up at 6 p.m.

So how did you get there and where do you go?

This year, to alleviate congestion, food, music and vendors will all be in separate areas. The festival fans out from the park to nearby Maiden Lane, Ray Avenue and the parking lot behind the AIT building. Parking is available on most downtown streets, in the Amtrak parking lot and at the Cumberland County Courthouse where a shuttle service will be available.

More security and volunteers are going to assist this year, King said. “There will be a higher police presence, not that public safety was an issue last year,” she said, “but we had an overwhelming response.”

A mobile unit with firefighters and police officers will be on hand. Volunteers will also be assigned to major gateways to hand out event guides. One of the biggest changes for this year’s festival is a ban on coolers and animals with the exception of service animals.

Culbreth said volunteers are still needed. “There are a couple hundred volunteers helping out,” he said. “It is a labor of love for everybody. We all call Fayetteville home and want to make Fayetteville a better place to live. That is the feeling that we get out of it.”

The hard work of the Dogwood Festival’s board of directors and volunteers has earned the event two awards as a top 20 festival in the Southeast and from the International Festival and Events Association. The Dogwood Festival was recognized alongside such national events as the Rose Bowl.

“It meant a lot for us to be recognized by people of that stature,” King said. “To say that we have grown, yes, I think that is an understatement. The people who have held this job, the board of directors and the people who have volunteered have built this event into what it is. If we continue to stay focused and move on our goals and the mission that we have – to continue to provide something for everyone – I think we will continue to be Fayetteville’s favorite festival and a top 20 festival in the Southeast.”

It’s all financed by local fundraisers, sponsors and donations. “Our goal is to truly provide something for everyone in a free festival for our community,” King said. “We are a casual, family-oriented community street festival, and as long as we continue to bring that to the community, that is all that matters.”

Sanctioned Events:

“Rabbit Hole” presented by The Gilbert Theater, April 3-6, 11-13, 18-20

“Rent” at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, April 21

Cumberland County Schools State of the Schools Banquet, April 22

Fayetteville Farmer’s Market, spring grand opening, April 23

The Re-Store Warehouse Recycled Art Show, 5:30-8 p.m., April 24

Crimestoppers BBQ, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., in the Harris Teeter parking lot, April 25

Not Your Ordinary Dog Show presented by the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society, Tallywood Shopping Center, April 26

Hogs and Rags Annual Spring Rally, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., starting at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, April 26

7th Annual Habitour Bike Ride, Green Street, April 26

Spring Plant Sale, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Cape Fear Botanical Garden, April 26

Chancellor’s Scholarship Gala, Crown Center, April 26

YMCA Dogwood Festival 10k and Fun Run, April 26

Dogwood Festival Events

Miss Fayetteville Dogwood Festival Pageant, Crown Center, April 19

Bloom & Boom Kickoff Party, 6-10 p.m., Festival Park, April 25

Dogwood Festival Street Fair, 12-10 p.m., April 26 and 12-6 p.m., April 27