With this year's cool and wet spring, the thousands of dogwood trees on Greenfield Hill had been threatening not to cooperate for the 76th annual Dogwood Festival, which opened Friday in the historic neighborhood and continues through Sunday.

The tree's bare branches a week ago prompted Greenfield Hill Congregational Church's co-pastor, the Rev. Alida Ward, to joke that perhaps the festival this year would have to be called the azalea festival instead. But several intervening days of sun made a world of difference, and when the festival opened Friday morning the trees had plentiful white and pink blossoms.

Not peak, perhaps, but an ample supply to please hundreds of first-day visitors to the festival and and its many attractions.

"This year the dogwoods are late. The magnolias have almost taken over. But it's beautiful up here," said Ginnie Dunning of Bridgeport, who has been coming to the Dogwood Festival for more than a decade. Dunning shopped at the tag sale and attended a luncheon, which featured presentations by botanical artist Delores R. Santoliquido and florist Victoria Ross.

"Victoria is infinitely talented. She's very exacting," said Heidi Prom, one of the organizers of the luncheon.

Ross demonstrated the art of making a floral arrangement and Santoliquido showed her detailed artwork and talked about conservation.

"Recently, there has been a real resurgence of interest in botanical art," said Santoliquido, whose study of the plant world has given her an extensive body of knowledge including information about dogwoods.

"I have always admired dogwoods because they are so complex. The part that you think is the petal is not. The actual flowers are at the center of the bloom," she said. What look like petals are actually sepals, she said.

The Dogwood Festival includes an indoor art show, an outdoor arts-and-crafts show, musical entertainment, the Dogwood Dash and Mini Dash, a Blessing of the Animals ceremony, a walking tour of historic sites, sales of plants, and a host of other events. Audrey Condie, of Fairfield, was pleased to see the return this year of the art show after an absence of a couple of years.

S.C. Winslow, one of the art show and sale organizers, said there are 41 artists represented in the exhibit, many of them new to the festival.

"This space is wonderful. It's very well presented with the light and the airiness. You can step back to take in the artwork," said Ginger Kleinbardt, of Fairfield, who has four watercolors in the show.

"I enjoy the art display," she said, as she admired a couple of oil paintings that had as their subject matter the Dogwood Festival; one by Ingrid Bloom showcased the Dogwood Dash road race and another by Vera Rahn captured the beauty of dogwood trees at the entrance to the church.

Chris Gulotta of Bridgeport, a parishioner at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church and a former member of the festival organization team, said the historic sanctuary is beautiful, not just visually, especially with all the dogwoods in bloom, but spiritually and socially. She said the annual Dogwood Festival brings together the entire church community -- for fun as well as for good causes.

Several charities benefit from the festival proceeds each year, although this year the church will keep some to help repair the sanctuary roof.

"The funds are split between charity and the roof (this year). We are disappointed that we have to reduce the proportions given to charity in order to take care of this very immediate roof need. We are looking forward to returning to the previous times when 100 percent of the Dogwood proceeds went to charity," said Art McCain, the church's comptroller.

Organizers will hold a "Raise the Roof" dinner and dance benefit and silent auction Saturday to raise funds for the repair of the church roof.

The Dogwood Festival continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., on the church grounds, 1045 Old Academy Road.

For more information or a full listing of the Dogwood Festival events visit the website, www.greenfieldhillchurch.com.


The 76th annual Dog Festival continues this weekend on the grounds of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, 1045 Old Academy Road. Here are a few highlights:


8:30 a.m.: Dogwood Dash race

10:30 a.m.: Dogwood Mini Dash for children

11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Guided Walking Tours

Noon: Greenfield Hill Church Choir and Men's Chorus

4:30 to 6 p.m.: "Meet the Artists" wine-and-cheese party at Dogwood Festival Art Show

7 p.m. "Raise the Roof" dinner-dance benefit and silent auction


Noon: Blessing of the Animals