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Fayetteville Dogwood Festival says its debts are paid

Downtown’s big show to go on despite surrounding drama


As the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival weathers a recent storm of controversy, difficulty and criticism, it has paid off $42,000 in debts from last year, board members said, and the 2024 festival is well underway.

“We are in the black,” said Dogwood Festival board member Andrew Porter.

“And I feel way better. I feel way, way, way better about that,” said board member Jackie Tuckey.

The 2024 Dogwood Festival is the weekend of April 26-28. The Dogwood Festival organization is an independent, nonprofit organization that has been holding the annual event since 1983. In recent years its leaders have said it draws 250,000 people. It is Fayetteville’s largest downtown event.

The festival fills Fayetteville’s Festival Park and much of the downtown area with craft and food vendors, carnival rides and other entertainment.

In mid-March, the debts were still on the festival’s books. That affected plans for this year’s event, in particular, with the free musical performances that draw crowds in the evenings.

Music troubles: ‘Everybody has gone up in cost’

Prior to this year, the Dogwood Festival has featured concerts with nationally known bands and performers — and with no admission charge for audiences to see the shows.

The festival’s financial situation plus rising prices led the festival to do without prominent musical acts this year, board members said.

“Everybody has gone up in cost,” said board member Tara Long, who is arranging the entertainment. “So for us to do our big name band, like we’ve had in the past, like Buckcherry last year, for example. … Somebody of his caliber has probably gone up 20% in cost.”

She estimated it would cost the festival almost $100,000 to book a band, arrange for the concert production equipment, provide a hotel for the band and its staff, and so on.

Instead, the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne All-American Band and Chorus will have a three-hour set on the opening night, Friday, with rock, pop and country music, Long said.

On the Saturday of the festival, a Latin music disc jockey will play, she said.

And on Sunday, Long said, Ronny Parrish of Unlimited Sounds DJ service will play music and have family friendly games with the audience from noon to 6 p.m.

Difficulty in the past several years

The Dogwood Festival organization has had troubles since 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down that year’s festival. Among them:

  • IRS filings show the festival’s expenses exceeded its revenues in 2020, 2021 and 2022, the latest year with data available.
  • The organization has not had an executive director since June 2023, when the last director resigned to go into a partnership with a restaurant. Since then, its unpaid eight-person board has been pursuing sponsorships, arranging the vendors, arranging the entertainment, and doing other overhead and day-to-day functions, Porter said.
  • The City Council in November agreed to pay for a consultant to evaluate the festival and its future. The consultant recommended a number of changes, including charging an admission fee and having a smaller venue (there is no admission fee this year).
  • After the consultant’s report was made public, one of the festival’s former executive directors, Malia Kalua Allen, made numerous accusations of mismanagement and wrongdoing at the festival. She published these on TikTok and other social media platforms.
  • Some of Allen’s accusations of wrongdoing, including allegations of criminal activity, were levied at another former executive director, Carrie King. King says the accusations are false, and she is suing Allen for libel.

Porter said the Dogwood Festival board has no comment on the lawsuit, and it is not planning any litigation against Allen.

A hearing in the libel lawsuit is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in room 3B of the Cumberland County Courthouse.

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

This story was made possible by contributions to CityView News Fund, a 501c3 charitable organization committed to an informed democracy.

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