The dogwood trees are in bloom, and that means the return of the annual Dogwood Festival to downtown Perry.
Arts and crafts are the featured attraction of this two-day, free event but a growing number of other activities and sanctioned events also will be happening this weekend.
“The festival was started by the downtown merchants 27 years ago,” said Bonnie Giles, director of events for the Perry Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think it was started as a way to bring people downtown to their stores. It started out a one-day arts and crafts festival and it has grown over the years.”
This year’s Dogwood Festival also includes a hot air balloon rally, artisan demonstrations, kids’ activities and an ultimate air dog competition.
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Most of the events will be centered on Carroll, Ball and Main streets in downtown Perry, but the Hot Air Balloon Rally will take place at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.
“This is the third year for the balloons,” Giles said. “I do believe at this point we are the only hot air balloon rally this time of year in Middle Georgia.”
Gates for the rally open at 5 p.m. The event will feature tethered balloon rides and music from 6-9 p.m. from Southern rock group the Has Beens.
“You can bring your lawn chairs, blankets, you can bring your cooler,” Giles said. “You can bring a picnic supper. There are food vendors that will be on site, but you can also bring your own stuff but no alcohol and no pets.”
Kids also will have a chance to bounce and jump on a cold air balloon, she said.
“At dusk, they’ll do a balloon glow where they crank up their propane and the balloons glow and it’s really pretty,” Giles said.
If the weather and wind cooperate, there are plans for a balloon liftoff Saturday morning.
“Last year, they went straight up (Interstate) 75. It was really pretty,” Giles said. “They went right over downtown Perry.”
The arts and crafts portion of the event will feature a variety of items, including pottery, wood carvings and jewelry. There also will be lots of fair-type food vendors.
“This year we have a record number of vendors downtown, which it has been steadily growing for quite a few years now,” Giles said. “We’ll have a lot of kids things for them to do. Kids’ bouncy houses and face painters and sand art -- just a lot of different things for people to do.”
This includes the ultimate air dog competition, which will take place both days in front of the New Perry Hotel. The event will feature competitions in “Fetch-It, Catch-It and Chase-It.”
There will be demonstrations of each game and practice sessions for anyone who has not competed before but is interested in registering a dog.
The downtown events also include a 5K race at 8 a.m. Saturday and a Canine Costume Mutt Strut at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to be a costume parade for puppy dogs,” Giles said.
Festival-goers who venture out of downtown will have a chance to catch some of the event’s namesake in bloom.
“There are actually a lot of dogwoods in Perry back in the neighborhoods,” Giles said. “They grow a lot back in the older neighborhoods in Perry.”
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 11 and noon-5 p.m. April 12
Where: Carroll, Ball and Main streets, Perry
Hot Air Balloon Rally
When: 5-9 p.m. April 11
Where: Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry
Cost: $5 for ages 7 and older