New Haven has its cherry blossoms, Meriden its daffodils and Hartford is known for the hundreds of rose bushes at Elizabeth Park. Fairfield's long floral heritage continued over the weekend with a pink-and-white canopy of dogwoods in Greenfield Hill.
Organizers of the 78th Dogwood Festival wondered if the delicate four-petal flowers would cooperate for this year's event, a well-known springtime ritual in Fairfield, because the festival was moved up a week earlier than usual. Although the trees were not laden with blossoms, the crop proved more than adequate for the celebration.
"This is like living in the Boston public gardens. There's so much ethereal beauty," Raelinda Woad, one of the event artists, said of the green in front of the historic Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, where she had a booth for her Storyteller Creations. She combines her literary creations with her unique jewelry.
"We always gravitate to the jewelry and the dogwoods," said Sarah Pollex of Fairfield, who brought her daughter Sophia, 9, to the event, organized by the church Women's Guild.
Activities throughout the three-day festival included walking tours of the area, an art show, piano and choral concerts, a plant and garden boutique, a juried craft show and sale, children's crafts and games, a blessing of the animals, sale of baked goods and other foods, a Saturday night dinner and dance, and even a road race.
All of that is a far cry from the first festival, which featured a card table on the church green in 1936.
On Saturday, for instance, more than a dozen tables were set up under a large tent to augment the dozen or so picnic tables to accommodate the thousands of visitors that trek to Greenfield Hill for the festival each year. Attendance was expected to be large because of the splendid weather all weekend.
Cliff and Nancy Platt of Bridgeport missed the first 28 years of the festival, but have attended every one since. "We've been coming for 50 years. We're getting older now so we bring our chairs and people watch and look at the dogwoods. We're enjoying the day," Cliff Platt said.
Nina Carter, 18, of Fairfield, has only attended the Dogwood Festival for the last 10 years, but that's long enough for her to make an interesting observation. "I think what's interesting is that the event stays the same, but then we see the changes in the people we are," she said.
Carter appreciates the event for its sense of community. When the vendors remember visitors' names from year to year, it underscores that sense of community, she said.
The Rev. David J. Rowe, one of the church pastors, said the Dogwood Festival's net proceeds are donated to local, national and international charities, including Operation Hope, Mercy Learning Center, Habitat for Humanity and Save the Children.
"We've tried to focus the Dogwood Festival funds to projects that help women and children," Rowe said. Some of the proceeds were used to make repairs to the historic church. "The roof is all done. What a difference that's made. The windows were taken out. It was a construction zone (here) last summer," Rowe said.
Proceeds from the hotdog and hamburger grill at the festival will support the church youths' annual Appalachia Service Project trip. More than 200 youth and adults will make the trip this summer, the church's 38th to the impoverished.