Dogwood Festival to bring dog competition, hot air balloons to Perry

jmink@macon.comJanuary 22, 2013 

PERRY -- Kathy O’Neal remembers when she helped create the Dogwood Festival in Perry. Back then, about three or four organizers pulled off the festival with a few downtown merchants and a handful of attendees.

Twenty-five years later, the festival has become a main event for the town, drawing people from across the state and offering more than 100 vendors. This year, the event will feature some new attractions: a hot air balloon rally, a national dog competition -- and dogwood trees.

“We’ve called this the Dogwood Festival forever,” said Rob Brooks, 2012 chairman of the Perry Area Chamber of Commerce, “but we didn’t have a great number of visible dogwood trees.”

So officials decided to plant some. The chamber kicked off Tuesday with the planting of 25 dogwoods in anticipation of the festival, which will be held this year on April 13 and 14. The trees were donated by state Sen. Ross Tolleson, Rep. Larry O’Neal, Rep. Robert Dickey, Rep. Buddy Harden, former Rep. Larry Walker and Perry resident David Walker.

The city will plant the trees at the entrance to downtown, Rotary Centennial Park and the Perry Arts Center.

As part of the new events, the festival has qualified as an official preliminary competition for the national DockDog aquatics contest in Las Vegas.

People from across the nation are expected bring their dogs to Main Street for Perry’s preliminary, Brooks said.

The competition should be a boon for the local economy, Brooks said, by attracting patrons to Perry restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

The chamber estimates more than 300 local hotel rooms will be rented by dog competitors, he said.

The new hot air balloon event will be on April 13 beginning at 4 p.m. at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. During the festival, 15 hot air balloons will be lit. People can take tethered rides and watch the evening balloon glow, said Beth McLaughlin, 2013 chamber chairwoman.

The new events are “amazing” to O’Neal, who remembers a time when organizers were not sure whether the festival would continue for a second year.

“It has taken off and become an amazing event,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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