It’s Knoxville’s own annual bit of suspense: Will the dogwoods bloom or won’t they before the Dogwood Trails open? This year, the flowering trees split the difference for the March 29 opening, with some trees still sporting tight green buds while others had started to blossom fully.
This year’s ribbon-cutting was to be held at the water wheel on the historic Westmoreland trail, but it was moved to a pavilion at Lakeshore Park, as the wind whipped around that morning and the skies grew dark but never opened. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero were on hand, as were Dogwood Arts staff, volunteers and board members. A large number of supporters later dined at the private Dogwood Arts luncheon, which was held in a tent on the Lakeshore grounds.
There are 85 miles of Dogwood Trails, in 12 neighborhoods. This year’s featured trail, the Westmoreland trail, was opened in 1957, and was the third one in the city. Parts of the trail originally belonged to the Sequoyah Hills section, which was opened in 1955. In the early days of the city beautification project, volunteers hung homemade arrows on trees, and helpful hosts stood ready to guide lost motorists out of their neighborhoods.
“I think there’s such excitement about the Dogwood Trails because so many people have great memories of the activities they shared with their families through the years,” says Vicki Williams-Baumgartner, program manager for Dogwood Trails and Gardens. “The pink lines that lead the way through the neighborhoods also signal that spring has finally arrived, and it’s time to get out and enjoy the beauty of our city.”
The Westmoreland trail, in particular, is special because of its long history and its beautifully landscaped estate lots, Williams-Baumgartner says. “It’s a quiet reprieve in the midst of the city.”
In the late 1950s, there were often no set days for the trail openings, as the committees delayed until Mother Nature cooperated. Today there’s so much Dogwood Arts activity that the whole enterprise is a tightly scheduled machine. It’s a cultural experience on many levels, including several visual and performing arts events, a home and garden show, featured gardens and public gardens, organized bike rides and hiking activities in and out of the city, and such popular public events as Chalk Walk and the Rhythm N’ Blooms music festival.
“Nostalgia and civic pride are at the root of our continuing success as an organization,” says Sherry Jenkins, who is undertaking her first Dogwood Arts as the organization’s executive director. Besides the nostalgia factor for those who grew up here, she says, for those who are discovering Knoxville as visitors or new neighbors, “…they feel that civic pride rippling through our city, and they want to be part of it.”
For more information about the trails and all other activities, visit www.dogwoodarts.com.