History Blooms at Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration in Palestine, TX.
Something magical happens in Palestine, Texas, in March of every year. The town’s long-time celebration comes to life with spring flowers, festivals, and miles of trails of dogwood blooms. It’s the time of year when the whole family gathers for all the spring events in town. Visit Palestine this spring and experience the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration.
Palestine, TX, located in the piney woods of East Texas, is a short 1-1/2 hours from Dallas and 2-1/2 hours drive from Houston and is home to the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration, Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival, 1836 Chuckwagon Races, Dogwood Jamboree and Haunted Little Jail, Palestine is graced with stately homes, beautiful historical sites, gorgeous scenic drives and a Texas friendly welcome that offers a true Southern experience.
Today’s story is written and sponsored by Visit Palestine, Texas. The city takes great pride in being a popular destination to see the beauty of the dogwood trees. Please enjoy this story, and plan to visit this spring to see the beautiful dogwood blooms.
“There is no bad day in Palestine, Texas.”
The 2023 Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration is from March 17 – April 2, 2023. See more information below.
History Blooms At Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration
A lot can happen over a cup of coffee, and in 1938 the Texas Dogwood Trails were born from a casual conversation about the unique landscape and beauty of the blooms in the region. Charles W. Wooldridge, the power company manager, and Eugene Fish, a bank president, thought sharing this view with the people of Texas and beyond was worth looking into. That very same day, they walked into the local newspaper and suggested an invitation should be extended to all to come and view the spectacular sight of the dogwood trees in bloom. Within days, the article was picked up across a few newspapers, and by the end of the blooming season, 20,000 visitors appreciated the cross-shaped brackets symbolizing the arrival of spring. The following year, the number doubled.
The story of how it started and where it is today is just as bumpy as the original country roads that sightseers had to traverse. A labor of love for so many, the predictable yet unpredictable spring rains created a mucky pathway making what many described as a serene experience feel like an unfound fairytale. With that, the search was on for a plot of hilly land that would be the perfect tract for the permanent home of the community project.
To make the space navigable, the community brought axes and plows from their homesteads and hand-carved out the trails, filling valleys and forging their way through the landscape with borrowed pickup trucks. The path through the woods was completed in 1941 and was touted as a trail in an entirely natural setting.
The hardship during WWII took its toll on the popular blooming trail with gasoline rationing and a national plea for reduced travel. Yet again, the community stepped in to secure a permanent home for the scenic driving tour. Local business and oilman M. A. Davey purchased the large tract of land where the trails had been built and donated it back to the residents of Anderson County to be used explicitly for a public park. Eighty-five years later, the park continues to welcome visitors from all walks of life, some real, some imaginary.
Davey Dogwood Park
A mild breeze makes its way through the tall trees, bringing in the refreshing scent of a new season. The sound of people talking in the distance as they meander across a well-beaten path leading up and through the forest, grateful that they have the chance to stretch their legs. The drive to a small town USA has just begun, and the first stop… Davey Dogwood Park in Palestine, Texas.
Nearing the end of the winter season, the redbuds have opened, and a pop of magenta sprinkles the park signaling the beginning of the annual blooming season. The air is still crisp, and the scattered rain showers help bring new life to the area, encouraging new growth.
The long vertical drive into the park is met with budding white blooms on both sides. Winding through the forest, with the window rolled down, a camera is set to video mode to capture the pops of white in an otherwise grey forest, slowly awakening. The lacy treetop canopy of the dogwood provides the perfect filter for the light.
In the heart of the park, a beautiful open space hosts birdwatchers, nature lovers, and bloom aficionados. Picnic blankets are scattered on the open lawn, and the smell of burgers cooking on the grill fills the expanse. The park is always an unexpectedly popular spot for locals and visitors, and it’s easy to sense why. A cluster of children plays flag football off in the distance as parents enjoy the legacy of Davey Dogwood Park.
Fairy Gardens At Davey Dogwood Park
In the distance, a child’s excited squeal echoes through the empty hardwood trees. It is mid-March, and a new colony has formed in the park, a colony of fairies whispering in the fairy gardens. Year after year, each spring, hidden beneath a rock, around the bend, or high in a tree; tiny homes can be spotted along a wooded path in Davey Dogwood Park. These miniature spaces are made from tree branches, rocks, moss, pinecones, and many other natural, biodegradable materials. They are waiting to be found along a one-mile trail nestled among the trees. The magic of the fairy garden trail brings new life, encouraging visitors to park their car and walk within, seeking over 60 magical and unique gardens designed by… you guessed it, the locals.
Through The Years Of The Texas Dogwood Trails Festival
Over the years, the Texas Dogwood Trails grew into a city-wide three-weeklong celebration centered around the 21 days of the blooming cycle of the dogwood tree. Historically, the flowers appear the last two weekends in March and the first weekend in April, although Mother Nature likes to make her own schedule from year to year. The celebration continues with festivals and events commemorating the importance and significance of the dogwood, a tree unexpectedly found in Texas.
The opening weekend launches with the Dogwood Festival featuring Arts & Music hosted in Historic Palestine Main Street. Fair food, fine art, and live music introduce the season. Towering two-story-stained glass tours in stunning churches, walking historic and architectural tours of old hotels, bakeries, and the everyday life in the 1800s, and stage performances from live shows at the Texas Theatre to a Branson-style country music show at the Dogwood Jamboree.
Jam Sessions, Workshops, & Jamming
A laid-back attitude is all you need for the Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival celebrating its 20th year of finger-pickin’, toe-tappin’, knee-slappin’ fun. This festival serves up five concerts over three days, each showcasing talent from across the nation. Guests can participate at any level with jam sessions and workshops all weekend. The mornings are open for workshops, but the afternoons are free for jamming. Just want to listen? The jam sessions are in different rooms throughout the building, with one room full of Autoharps, another with old-time fiddlers, and another may be a slow mountain dulcimer jam for beginners.
Dogwood Lunch Train Aboard The Texas State Railroad
And since laid back seems to be a theme, relax to the sound of the metal rails beneath the seat as a passenger aboard the Dogwood Lunch Train, and taste a little bit of East Texas while riding the Texas State Railroad. Broaden your senses with a specially curated meal aboard a vintage passenger train car for a four-hour journey. Offered every Saturday during the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration.
Passengers will enjoy the arrival of spring as they gaze out the picture windows across the landscape in the same fashion as it was to travel 100 years ago. The journey crosses 24 bridges, and the piney woods are home to over 100 species of birds, including the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
More To See In Palestine, Texas
Seeing the dogwoods is enough reason to visit Palestine, but the town has much more to offer. Take in all the historic architecture, which has more buildings on the National Register of Historic Places than any other mainland city in Texas. Or pamper your taste buds at any of the town’s local eateries. Taste what lies behind the pine curtain and experience the foodie scene from fine dining to pub fare.
In the mood for something sweet? Palestine, TX, has two must-see stops for that sweet tooth. Home to one of the oldest bakeries in Texas, Eilenberger Bakery still uses a family fruitcake recipe dating back 125 years. If it’s pie you’re craving, Texas’ favorite pie stop is serving up big slices of heaven on a plate at Oxbow Bakery.
And, if there is more time in your visit, seeing the Redlands Hotel’s dining room is worth a visit, as is the Sacred Heart Catholic historic church.
The 85th Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration
March 17 – April 2, 2023
For information, visit the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration – including the Official Dogwood Bloom Watch 2023.
For more inspiration about Palestine, TX, see this recent article about a Mother-Daughter Trip To Palestine, TX.
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