Occupation: Director of events and communications, Perry Chamber of Commerce
Q: How long until Perry’s Dogwood Festival?
A: About two and a half weeks — mark your calendar. It’s going to be a great time.
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Q: Exactly when is it?
A: April 8th and 9th. The downtown arts and crafts part Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and includes all the entertainment, food and other fun things. Same Sunday, but noon to 5 p.m. There are three portions to the festival: arts and crafts downtown, the Ultimate Air Dogs competition also downtown and then the hot air balloon rally with tethered rides Saturday evening at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter.
Q: The Perry Chamber of Commerce has been doing the festival how long?
A: Twenty-nine years. It started in 1988 as a one-day event downtown merchants did as a way to draw people to downtown Perry. It’s grown to two days and gotten much bigger.
Q: How big?
A: We’ll have 137-plus vendors. Vendor registration is closing and really we’ve already run out of spots. But we’re working to create a few more. Because of the demand we’re able to get great vendors with all their arts, crafts, food and other items. The festival covers a good five blocks and we expect about 10,000 people downtown and 12,000 at the fairgrounds for the balloons.
Q: They didn’t have all that for the first festival, did they?
A: Or the Ultimate Air Dog competition.
Q: What is that?
A: A lot of fun to watch, mainly, but I guess basically it’s people having their dogs leap off a dock high into the air to retrieve a favorite toy from the water. People come from all over for the competition and a lot from right here have seen it and started practicing and entering with their dogs. A neat thing is they let people bring their dogs and just give it a try.
Q: How? There aren’t any ponds, rivers or docks downtown.
A: They build it all south of the old courthouse. There’s spectator seating and people watch, some for hours. It’s great family entertainment. The whole Dogwood Festival is family oriented.
Q: And free?
A: And free. Admission to everything downtown is free. There’s a $5 admission to the hot air balloons at the fairgrounds but children under six are free. Parking is free. The tethered balloon ride is $10 and there’s a kid’s play zone that’s $10. And there’s live entertainment. A lot of people bring lawn chairs to enjoy the whole evening with the balloons firing up for the balloon glow. It’s quite a colorful show.
Q: Back downtown to arts and crafts, what sort of vendors do you have?
A: About everything you can think of when you think arts and crafts. Sometimes that makes guys roll their eyes but we have things for men, too.
A: I know Ducks Unlimited has carved ducks and there’s someone selling unique, handmade bow ties. I can’t think of everything but there are others and really, there are lots of regular arts and crafts guys like.
Q: Why go to all the trouble putting on a big festival?
A: The community as a whole is truly excited about it and it brings a lot of synergy and togetherness. It gives us a chance to enjoy our beautiful, historic downtown and to show it off to visitors. It’s a lot of fun. At the same time, it covers many chamber goals. It has an economic development factor as it brings people to see Perry and a quality of life factor by providing an exceptional entertainment event. These make Perry much more attractive to new business and industry considering locating their operations and people here.
Q: The downtown event is free but do people get stuck paying for parking or something?
A: No. Parking is free and there’s lots of it. In fact, we’ll have trams circling to pick people up from more parking spots. And traffic isn’t a problem in Perry.
Q: Where are the parking-tram locations?
A: Festival brochures tell about parking, trams and the whole event, but the tram loop is from the Georgia National Fairgrounds’ west loop, the intersection of Carroll and Washington streets and the Perry Arts Center at 1121 Macon Road — the old National Guard Armory. All free.
Q: Once downtown, what can people expect?
A: All the vendors, all the food, all the entertainment, all the fun. One of the great things about Perry is there’s always a lot of benches downtown anyway, even with a little park with seating. There’s more during the festival and bleacher seating for the entertainment. It’s a nice casual atmosphere with lots to do and plenty of places to have a seat.
Q: What does it take to put such a festival on?
A: Great volunteers and great sponsors. The whole thing is run by a volunteer committee and there are costs involved with bringing attractions. We couldn’t do it without our sponsors. We also couldn’t do it without the cooperation of city leaders, the police and fire departments and emergency services, but they’re great and help a lot. The Dogwood Festival is just something different and entertaining to do and a fun place to be. Something for everyone.
Q: What’s your favorite part?
A: I suppose seeing the plan come together and everybody having fun. I like that the festival gives local charities and nonprofits a chance to set up fundraisers. Like Perry Lions are having a contest now for the prettiest dogwood tree in town. Rotary has a fishing contest. All this adds to the festival and helps show Perry is a good place to live.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.