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Thousands attend 40th Dogwood Festival in downtown Fayetteville

The spring festival, back for the first time since 2019, continues through Sunday.


Thousands made the pilgrimage downtown Saturday for the 40th Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, the first time the city’s spring street festival has been held since 2019.

The festival’s executive director, Sarahgrace Snipes - who was overseeing her first spring Dogwood Festival - said Saturday afternoon that everything was going well.

“The Dogwood Festival is to support the community,” the 24-year-old Snipes said from Festival Park, where the headlining musical entertainment and the various Kidzone activities for children are staged.

“The Dogwood Festival has multiple impacts on the community,” she said while sitting on the back seat of a golf cart. "The mental aspect, which is good for people to come back after COVID. To laugh. To have fun. There’s also the economic impact of the festival here. It’s not only to draw locals to the downtown area but those who are out of town and out of state.”

Traditionally, the celebration draws 200,000 to 250,000 people to the downtown district. Snipes said she’d like to see more than 100,000 visitors for the return of the Dogwood Festival following its hiatus due to the pandemic.

Saturday night’s country music performances will feature Dillon Carmichael, Kameron Marlowe and Tyler Farr.

The festival wraps up Sunday, when hours are noon to 9 p.m., with The Purple Madness – A Tribute to Prince scheduled to perform in the evening. A car, motorcycle and truck show will be part of Sunday’s events, too.

By 1 p.m. Saturday, a large crowd of people already were perusing the vendors who lined up on each side of the cordoned-off Hay Street in the center of the city. The vendors included organizations and specialty items - from Fayetteville Pride and the Cape Fear Coin Club to fried Oreos and creamed and infused honey.

Sydney Swardz, 18, of Pinehurst, attended with her friend, 17-year-old Kailey Whitaker of Southern Pines.

“My mother was going to come to the concert,” Swardz said of the Saturday night show. “But her boyfriend is going to propose to her tonight at a Braves game in Atlanta.”

For Whitaker, it was her first Dogwood Festival in about five years. That was back when her father was stationed at Fort Bragg.

What did they like about this year’s festival?

“All the vendors,” she said.

“All the people. Seeing all the people who come together,” Swardz said.

Children ambled along with the adults, with some of the youngsters sporting face paints in bright colors.

Darrel and Ashley Green were in the crowd. The couple lives in Fayetteville, but 43-year-old Darrel Green grew up in South Carolina where he said the dogwoods are prominent.

“I get to see the historic district,” he said of the downtown area. “Plus, I like dogwood trees. You see them everywhere. When they blossom, they are beautiful. We’ve even got a Dogwood Drive in Sumter.”

Ashley Green, 38, said she had wanted to see the different vendors and the festival food.

Not too far away, the wrestlers with Ring Wars Carolina were engaged in live outside matches at the corner of Ray Avenue and Hay Street. People gathered around and watched as the sound of repeated body slams on the mat could be heard.

Anthony and Beverly Bechly moved to Fayetteville about 2 ½ months ago. Anthony had been traveling the country with a wind turbine company. They were accompanied by their son, 1-year-old Oli. He sat in a stroller that they pushed along Ray Avenue.

“We’ve only seen a little bit of it,” said Anthony Bechly, 36, and an Army veteran. “It’s nice to be out in the fresh air. Just seeing people moving again. The weather – it may be too warm – but there’s a good breeze.”

Teresa Wright, 62, of Fayetteville, said she was happy to have her longtime friend from New York with her at this year's festival. Kelvin Battle, 64, said he was visiting from his home, which is now in Washington, D.C.

“I’m showing him what Fayetteville has to offer, which wasn’t always like this,” Wright said, referring to the string of food and beverage vendors operating along the promenade to Festival Park. “We still have COVID. But people are coming out and doing stuff like they used to do.’’ 

Not far from the performance pavilion, a group of women wearing red hats had found seats in the shade under a birch tree. They were the Red Hat Society Sisters With Class from Bladen County.

Louella Thompson is "the Queen" of Sisters With Class. About 15 members of the chapter had carpooled and drove their own vehicles to the festival.

“We just came to beautify,” Thompson said with a broad smile. “This is an outing for us. We’ve been here since this morning. We’re enjoying it. We’re having a good time. We’re having good conversation, and the food is good.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.


Fayetteville, Dogwood Festival, outdoor festival