Darlene McLendon, president and CEO of the Perry Area Chamber of Commerce, talks about the city’s upcoming Dogwood Festival, being held Saturday and Sunday.
Q. How much does it cost?
A: The festival is free; however, the Hot Air Balloon Rally has a $5 admission, but kids ages 5 and under are free to the rally. At the balloon rally, tethered balloons, which go up 40 to 50 feet in the air, costs $10 to ride. All these payments need to be in cash at the rally. There is also a Kids Zone at the festival in the downtown area both days, but those have a per activity charge. They usually have the blow up houses, bungee jumping, an inflated slide and more.
Q. What happens at the Hot Air Balloon Rally?
A: This is at the fairgrounds; the balloons do not light up until dark — they stand up, but do not actually glow until dark. The tethered rides are Saturday from 5-9 p.m. There will also be hot air balloon flights early Saturday and Sunday morning, These are usually reserved for our sponsors, but we brought in enough balloonists, so there are enough for sale. These rides are $225 per person; people can reach out and call us at the chamber, and we can give information about how to arrange those flights. It is usually about a 45 minute flight somewhere in the Middle Georgia area, depending on weather. There are a limited number of flights for sale, so for more information, call 478-987-1234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What is unique to this event?
A: On Saturday at 3 p.m., we have a Vintage Fashion Show, and that is being put on by the Perry Area Historical Society. This is the third year for this event, and it will take place in the Perry Arts Center, 1121 Macon Road. It is a tea, so you will have finger foods and a brunch-like setting, along with a narrated, vintage fashion show with garments from historical times in and around Perry which are linked with past citizens of Perry. Tickets are $20. The models are dressed in character and walk around and interact at the tables where the attendees are seated. For tickets or more information, call 478-224-4442.
Q. Who will this festival attract?
A: There is something for everyone. It truly does attract families. You will see infants being pushed in strollers and senior citizens gathering together as well as church groups. The dogs jumping entertain every age group, and Kids Zone is entertainment for the kids. There are over 120 vendors in the arts and crafts area, and they are filling up over 140 spaces — we have things for male and female shoppers.
Q. How is it different from last year? What is new?
A: We have expanded it and added more vendor space. We are bringing in some new vendors for this year, including a vendor who specializes in teak furniture.
Q. What are some of the free activities people can expect?
A: The Ultimate Air Dogs Show is free. They set up a big pool, and they have a diving board/platform, and the host will get the dogs to run off the platform and jump out across the water to catch Frisbees and toys. They are very interactive with the crowds, and, in fact, anyone can bring their dogs from home and the hosts will work with those dogs to see how far they can get them to jump. Our festival is dog-friendly (in the downtown area, not at the fairground activities), but they do need to be on a leash; owners are responsible for clean-up bags. We will also have an adoption station for dogs from Fopaws (Friends of Perry Animal Shelter) out of Perry.
Also, in the downtown corridor, on both Saturday and Sunday, we will have a community stage where there will only be youth acts — mostly from Houston County. That fills up very quickly with local school choirs, local dance academies, etc. It is really for the community, but we like to offer it to the youth to show off their talent to encourage that creative side in our young people. This activity follows the same hours as the arts and crafts festival.
At the fairgrounds on Saturday night from 5-9 p.m., there will be a DJ who will be in the middle of the field and interacting with the children and playing a wide variety of music. The DJ will be doing the fun game songs children like to do. New this year at the balloon rally there will be static balloons all across the field so that people can get up close and pitch their blankets up near the baskets and be a part of the balloon “glow” this year. The tethered rides will have barriers around them, but there will be about 10 static balloons across the field where people can get close to them. We are bringing in two special shapes balloons. One is called Pokey, and it is a box turtle balloon; it will be set up at the fairgrounds and will be a static display balloon, and the other shape is a 100 foot tall American bald eagle. The name of it is Freedom, and it will be located near the fence line near the tethered rides. Beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, we will inflate two patriotic red, white and blue balloons, and they will be launched around 6:15 p.m. from the fairgrounds. This is the salute to the military ... a first time launch at night. The passengers on those balloons will be the chamber’s military affairs committee and Col. Lyle Drew from RAFB, and in the other balloon will be the chamber’s board chair Dan Perdue and Buster Hickam, president of Rolling Thunder, a group that focuses on the POW/MIA mission.
Q. What do the fund raised go toward?
A: It’s the Chamber of Commerce’s fundraiser and helps support our very robust program of work that continues throughout the year.
Q. What are the crowds like?
A: This is the 30th Arts and Crafts Festival and 5th Hot Air Balloon Rally. Last year, we had about 12,000 in the Arts and Crafts Festival, and at the balloon segment on Saturday night, we had about 10,000 people. We expect more this year. I advise people to get there early. It is such a fun, family environment, but no pets, alcohol or open flames are allowed at the fairgrounds.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
Who: Darlene McLendon, president and CEO of the Perry Area Chamber of Commerce
What: The Dogwood Festival and Hot Air Balloon Rally
When: April 14-15
Arts and Crafts Festival and The Ultimate Air Dogs – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the downtown corridor in Perry, 900 Carroll Street (main intersection of Carroll and Ball Street)
Hot Air Balloon Rally - Saturday at 5 p.m. the gates open at the Georgia National Fairgrounds
Arts and Crafts Festival - Sunday, noon at 5 p.m. and The Ultimate Air Dogs- Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.