The Charleston Chamber of Commerce is busy making preparations for the 44th Annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival. This festival, held the third weekend of April, is one of the premier springtime events in Southeast Missouri.
An inferno of pinks, whites, and purples blaze throughout the springtime landscape of Charleston, reminding visitors to the small town located between the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers that it is more closely akin to the Deep South than the Midwest. The comparison to the South’s colorful history, grand Victorian-era homes, and welcoming atmosphere is hardly by coincidence.
Homes stand festooned in splendid skirts of azaleas and bonnets of dogwood. According to local historians, some of the members of a local ladies’ garden club traveled to Natchez, Mississippi, nearly 50 years ago and became mesmerized by the splendid color of the azaleas there.
Upon returning home, they started conducting the “great experiment,” determining which azalea variety would grow hardy in the area. After much trial and tribulation, the results today speak for themselves. The dogwoods were planted as a group project by contracting with the Piggott Nursery for $3.25 per each three-foot to four-foot tree planted in the yards of more than 130 residents. Spring now provides the opportunity to showcase the town’s beauty and the glorious result of those long-ago efforts.
This year, 27 tour buses are already scheduled to make the journey to Charleston between April 19-22. Two art shows, a grand parade, home tours, a fish fry, an old-fashioned ice cream social, an arts and crafts show, a quilt show, shopping in the quaint canopy-lined downtown area and more will ensure the visitors enjoy their stay in Charleston.
The theme of our 44th Annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival is Celebrating 175 Years of Small Town America. As we honor the 175th anniversary of the founding of our city in 1837, we invite you and your family to come celebrate with us.
Charleston is located at Exits 10 and 12 on I-57, about 10 miles east of I-55. For more information you can visit www.CharlestonMo.org/festival or call 573-683-6509.
Written by Karen Teeters, executive director, Charleston Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy Lydia Holton.