On April 19, 1936, Atlanta invites the world to attend her first Dogwood Festival. Walter Rich, president of ADF and founder of Rich’s department store, seeks to make Atlanta internationally known for the blooming of the dogwood trees during the week-long event. Trees are planted in all parts of Atlanta under the sponsorship of the garden clubs and public spirited citizens interested in the beautification of the city. Pageants, parades and carnivals sponsored by the Junior League, along with performances by the Metropolitan Opera, Philadelphia Symphony, and choruses from local colleges, are featured.
Postcard, ca. 1930–1945: “Dogwood Trees in Bloom, Atlanta, Ga”
The Festival is discontinued because of World War II.
The Women’s Chamber of Commerce (WCC) of Atlanta sparks a revival of the Dogwood Festival.
Under the leadership of the WCC, the Festival becomes one of the largest civic celebrations in the Southeast. Events include a parade, fashion show, symphony in Hurt Park and Dogwood lighted trails.
The Festival produces many new events, including the International Dogwood Festival Juried Art Show, Old Fashioned Day in the Park with a hot air balloon race, a regatta at Lake Lanier, and home tours throughout several prominent residential areas
“Big time” music, such as that of Paul Revere and the Raiders, and League of Decency, is added to the event.
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Inc. is created to allow for more community involvement and support. By this time, the Festival is a month-long event with 30 to 50 smaller events.
The Festival becomes an eight-day, three-venue event that includes the Music in the Marketplace lunchtime concert series, the Rock ‘n Run Race, a Volksport, Earth Day events, and the first Christmas Tree Recycling Project.
The now two-week Festival includes events in Buckhead, Piedmont and Midtown.
Leadership for the Atlanta Dogwood Festival becomes involved with the city and the Piedmont Park Conservancy, helping to promote a more conscientious use of the grounds.
The festival is a success with crowds of more than 200,000 people.
An economic impact survey is released announcing that the non-profit Atlanta Dogwood Festival has a whopping economic impact of more than $50 million on the city of Atlanta alone!
The Festival turns 70 and introduces the 1st Annual Rhythm and Blooms party.
Photo by Daniel Mayer
More than 220 artists from around the country fill the walkways of Piedmont Park.
Photo by Daniel Mayer
Due to severe drought conditions, the Festival moves to the forecourt of Lenox Square. A new, “Friends of Dogwood” area welcomes guests with a high-tech art exhibition, refreshing cocktails, quality wines and premium beers. Returning Festival favorites include musical performances and a Kid’s Village for the younger set.
After a 6 month period of uncertainty, it was announced in October that the festival would be allowed to return home to Piedmont Park. A radically new layout was used to stretch the event throughout the entire park. Artist booths were spread out into color coded segments, food vendors were moved to multiple areas and park vistas were used to enhance the aestetics of the festival. An International Performers stage was added to the program, to rave reviews. The changes were well received by the public and there was a special energy as Atlanta celebrated the festival’s return home.
The festival continues with its expanded set up and attracts great crowds. Partnerships with area groups leads to a 6 week comedy competition with Laughing Skull Lounge, a decorated golf cart competition sponsored by Peachtree City, and a large scale green intiative with the US Green Building Council, GA Chapter. That initiative led to record reclamation of waste and a heigthened awareness by festival goers of the importance of sustainability. In its second year the International Stage features entertainment from 20 countries.
Poster design by Kathryn Fortson
The 75th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival proved to be a giant success. With the addition of the 9-story Seattle Wheel and vintage Carousel, the festival attracted hundreds of thousands of excited attendees throughout the special diamond anniversary weekend. The Artist Market, music stages, disc dog competition, International Village & Stage, Atlanta High School Art Exhibition and Friends of Dogwood Pavilion were all in full swing. The perfect weather and array of offerings saw the festival close on Sunday with a park still filled with folks not ready to end the spring’s best event.
In its 76th year, the festival welcomed its first presenting sponsor PNC Bank. Thanks to PNC’s support, the festival was able to add a free Saturday night concert in the Piedmont Park Meadow featuring Grammy-award-winning artist the legendary Roberta Flack. Jazz violinist Ken Ford opened the show, and a new festival tradition was born!
Continuing its strong partnership with PNC Bank, the 77th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival featured a Saturday night concert from country music sensation Sara Evans. The Meadow became a hot spot with a VIP tent overlooking the Main Stage and carnival and kiddie rides. Competition was high during the Atlanta High School Art Exhibition Art Throwdown and the Museum of Design Atlanta Chair Hack.
The 78th annual festival kept the party going and welcomed the tasting event Backyard Barbecue & Brews. In its first year, this ticketed event sold out, and attendees enjoyed its fantastic location overlooking the main stage. Festival visitors also found thrills at the Art Throwdown, a timed live art competition pitting talented high school artists against each other to sketch, paint and sculpt as quickly and creatively as possible.
The final year of the festival’s 70s, saw the addition of Family Friday, a special day to celebrate families with all-you-can-ride wristbands and discounts on food and beverages. Saturday morning kicked off with the Atlanta Dogwood Festival 5K Run, which led hundreds of participants through the beautiful Midtown neighborhood and finished in Piedmont Park with another great day at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. And just like the past decades, for the 79th festival, more than 250 fine artists brought the best of their work for festivalgoers to peruse.
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival celebrated its 80th year with a Friday night performance from Jimmy Buffett tribute band AIA and a spectacular fireworks display. The fun kept going on Saturday with the biggest 80s party in Atlanta since the 80s, including Main Stage performances from cover bands Electric Avenue and Members Only. The run earned a new moniker, becoming the Mimosa 5K, when a celebratory toast was added to the finish line. The festival installed a permanent commemorative dogwood limb sculpture overlooking Piedmont Park’s lake, and it quickly became a favorite selfie spot for visitors. And throughout the entire park, 260 fine artists displayed their top-notch artworks. For the 80th anniversary, the festival went big at home!
In its 81st year, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival kept the party going even when the collapse of the I-85 bridge just days before the festival spelled transportation challenges for Atlanta. With strong encouragement for attendees to take MARTA and doubled shuttle bus runs, the festival continued to attract visitors and experienced a rise in attendance. During the weekend, festival attendees enjoyed the diverse fine arts market and the award-winning Atlanta High School Art Exhibition in addition to a global array of live entertainment on the International Stage; a Main Stage performance from Journey tribute band Departure, as well as a Southern Rock Revival and many other genres; libations after the popular Mimosa 5K; Friday night fireworks; amazing food at Backyard Bites & Brews; and much, much more!