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Spring Flower Festivals

Courtesy Sequim Lavender FestivalWashington’s Dungeness Valley is awash in blooming lavender during the annual Sequim Lavender Festival.

The 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees planted throughout Macon, Ga., have white blooms with pink middles. “When the blooms start to fade, the whole thing is pink. It’s like a big cotton-candy tree,” said Stacy Campbell, marketing director for the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon.

When the 500 varieties of lilac begin to bloom in Highland Park in Rochester, N.Y., the park is “just ablaze with color; it looks like a rainbow — fuchsia, purple, pink, salmon,” said Paula Savage, director of tourism sales for Visit Rochester, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

Many communities around the country celebrate the colorful blooms of flowers, trees and shrubs with activity-packed festivals set amid the multicolored hues. The festivals give groups not only an opportunity to experience nature’s colorful palette, but also plenty of chances to experience local history, food, entertainment and crafts.

Sequim Lavender Festival
Sequim, Wash.

Sequim proclaims itself the Lavender Capital of North America, so it is natural that the town, located in the Dungeness Valley on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, would hold a festival to celebrate the fragrant herb.

        Courtesy Sequim Lavender Festival

The festival, July 16-18, is centered around seven farm tours and a large street fair.
Each farm on the tour is different, and the farmers share techniques for cultivating, harvesting, drying and using lavender. Each farm also offers you-pick lavender, workshops, demonstrations, craft artists, music, food and beverages.

The free street fair in downtown Sequim, known as Lavender Central, has wines, music, local foods, more than 120 craft booths and, of course, numerous lavender products. There are free shuttle buses between Lavender Central and the farms.

Several community events are held in conjunction with the festival, among them a quilt show, jazz concerts, nature cruises, a winery tour, a golf tournament, and theater productions.
(877) 681-3035

Portland Rose Festival
Portland, Ore.

Groups don’t have to worry about the weather when watching the Portland Rose Festival parade, the second-largest floral parade in the nation behind the legendary Tournament of Roses Parade.

Courtesy Portland Rose Festival Foundation

“We have indoor seating; most parades don’t,” said Carol Ross, the festival’s director of sales and marketing. “Memorial Coliseum has big doors on each end that the parade can pass through. The entire parade passes right through there. People can sit inside and be comfortable.”

Just like the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day, the Portland festival’s parade floats must be covered in all natural materials.
There are two other parades, including one at night, during the festival’s two-week run, May 28-June 10.

“There is a rose show with competition for cut roses and about 50 events through that time period,” said Ross. “Most are centered in downtown Portland.”

However, Ross said, the big event is the parade. “The ‘secret formula’ to figuring out the parade date in any given year is it is always on the second Saturday after Memorial Day,” she said.
“Early June is one of the best times to catch all the rosebushes just coming into bloom. The International Rose Test Garden is looking at its finest during that time frame.”
(888) 591-7673

Rochester Lilac Festival
Rochester, N.Y.

“The Lilac Festival goes back quite a long time, well over 100 years,” said Savage. “And it keeps getting bigger each year.”

             Courtesy VisitRochester

The free festival (May 14-23) is centered in Highland Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed New York’s Central Park. “It is a hub of activity,” said Savage.
Continual entertainment on the main stage includes such wide-ranging options as big band and jazz, and about 200 craft exhibitors are featured on the festival’s two weekends.

“A big parade kicks off the festival on the first Saturday,” said Savage. “There are visiting bands from all over North America. We had a group of Japanese geisha performers a couple of years ago; you never know what will pop up.

“It is right in the park, on the same road as the lilacs. There is preferred seating for groups; we try to make it as pleasant and nonstressful as possible.”

In addition to the lilacs, which include rare yellow lilacs, the park is filled with azaleas, dogwoods and a specially designed pansy bed that changes with each festival.

“There definitely are lots of flowers,” said Savage. “We know that is why they [groups] are coming, so we also recommend flower gardens in town.”
(800) 677-7282

North Carolina Azalea Festival
Wilmington, N.C.

“This coming year (April 7-11) will be our 63rd,” said Sandy Collette, public relations spokeswoman for the North Carolina Azalea Festival. “It was started in 1947 by a group of men who just wanted to celebrate the beauty of our area.

“During the festival, the city is awash in pink, lavender, white and red azaleas. They are everywhere.”

A street fair, mostly along Water Street, which fronts the Cape Fear River, from Friday evening through Sunday features a wide range of entertainment, food booths, and arts and crafts booths. “There is an international stage with dancers and singers from all over the world,” said Collette.

There are two major concerts with big-name national entertainers at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington coliseum and a large three-hour parade through downtown on Saturday morning featuring nearly 200 units.

A celebrity queen, usually a movie or television star, spends a week at the festival and attends various functions along with other celebrity guests. Past queens have included Kelly Ripa, Esther Williams and Polly Bergen.

A tour of homes by the local historical society and a tour of gardens by the garden club are held in conjunction with the festival.

You know it is festival time by the 125 azalea belles, high school juniors and seniors who are positioned around the city and at all festival events in their antebellum costumes of hoop skirts, umbrellas and gloves.
(910) 794-4650

Meriden Daffodil Festival
Meriden, Conn.

Courtesy Meriden Parks, Recreation and Public Buildings

More than 500,000 daffodils representing more than two dozen varieties bloom each spring in Meriden’s historic Hubbard Park, creating a natural and colorful backdrop for the annual Meriden Daffodil Festival.

“We have a parade, three stages of continual entertainment, food vendors, arts and crafts, and amusements,” said Jane Earnest of Meriden Parks, Recreation and Public Buildings. “There is no admission [charge].

“It started with about 100 people, and since then has grown into what it is now. We attract about 70,000 to 80,000 people.”

The 32nd annual festival will be held April 24-25.

National Cherry Blossom Festival
Washington, D.C.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival March 27-April 11 honors the gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912 by the mayor of Tokyo.

Under the direction of first lady Helen Taft, the trees were planted around the Tidal Basin and today their pink and white blossoms are a major attraction in the spring.

The festival features more than 90 events throughout the city, with more than 150 daily cultural performances by local, national and international entertainers. Other events include art exhibits, fireworks, arts and crafts demonstrations and sports competitions.

A highlight of the festival is a large parade (April 10) down Constitution Avenue featuring floats, marching bands, large balloons, vocal artists and international performers. Group tickets are available for the grandstand between 15th and 16th streets, NW.

The 49th annual Japanese Street Festival April 4 will include Japanese arts and crafts, music and dance, and other demonstrations of Japanese culture.
(877) 442-5666

International Cherry Blossom Festival
Macon, Ga.

The 28th annual International Cherry Blossom Festival March 19-28 will feature 500 events, 80 percent of which are free, said Campbell.

Courtesy Macon International Cherry Blossom Festival

“We have hot-air-balloon glows, a parade, a gala ball, concerts, fireworks and a fashion show,” she said. “Almost all can accommodate large groups.”

The main venue in Central City Park is open throughout the 10-day festival, and one-day events are held at locations around the town and Bibb County.

“Macon has a tremendous amount of homes on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Campbell. “If all they [groups] want to do is tour homes and see the trees, they can get a step-on guide.”

Although the average lifespan of a Yoshino cherry tree — the same kind that is planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. — is 25 years, Macon doesn’t have to worry about running out of trees.

The family of the late William Fickling Sr., who donated the first 500 trees to the city 36 years ago, continues to donate 7,500 to 10,000 cherry trees each year to Macon residents.
(478) 751-7429