Dogwood Festival Committee looks forward to 2021

A Message from the 2020 Dogwood Festival Committee: The Vinton Dogwood Festival Committee would like to shout out a huge “Thank you” to the Town of Vinton, its surrounding communities, our sponsors, vendors, crafters and all our festival participants who have faithfully supported the Dogwood Festival since its inception in 1956.  Your support through the years has been outstanding and we know this year would have been nothing less. As you may know, this year marked the 65th year of the Vinton Dogwood Festival and until now, there has not been a year in the history of the event that we have had to cancel. It saddens us that we are unable to provide the festival for you this year, but we are already making plans for next year. One part of the event that has not been canceled this year is the crowning of the 65th Dogwood Festival Queen.  It has only been postponed and will now be a part of the Town of Vinton’s 4th of July celebration at the Vinton War Memorial. We hope you will plan to not only attend the celebration, but also be there to show support for the young ladies competing for this year’s Dogwood Festival Queen title.

Thank you again for the continued support through the years. It has been our pleasure to serve you! See you next year!

 Judy Ralph, Secretary, Vinton Dogwood Festival Board of Directors

Dogwood Festival Committee looks forward to 2021

By Debbie Adams

But for COVID-19, this week Vinton would be celebrating its 65th annual Dogwood Festival—the longest running festival in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Festivities would have gotten underway on April 23 with a carnival and concerts, leading up to the annual crowning of the Dogwood Queen on April 25, with a parade featuring the 2019 State Championship Girls Softball team from William Byrd High School as Grand Marshals.

The 2019 State Championship Girls Softball Team from William Byrd High School were the scheduled Grand Marshals for the 65th annual Dogwood Festival Parade which was to be held on April 25, 2020.

The first Vinton Dogwood Festival was held on May 5, 1956. It was, in fact, a combined parade and band competition which in time evolved into the Vinton Dogwood Festival.

That year the Vinton Band Boosters had seen the need for new uniforms for the William Byrd High School band. To finance the project, the organization sold small dogwood trees, charging $2 for white dogwoods, and $5 for pink. The idea caught on, and fun-loving Vintonites parlayed the sale of the dogwoods into a community project that culminated in a festival.

A photo of the Dogwood Queen from the 1957 parade. Despite the cancellation of the 2020 Dogwood Festival, a Dogwood Queen will still be selected and revealed at the Vinton War Memorial on the Fourth of July.

The first parade was dedicated to Virginia Governor Thomas Stanley who served from 1954-1958. During his time in office, the dogwood tree became the official state tree.

According to the Roanoker Magazine, “in the months leading up to the first festival, Vintonites were encouraged to plant dogwood trees so that the town might one day justify calling itself the Dogwood Capital of Virginia.” The Town of Vinton itself purchased and planted 50 dogwoods along Virginia and Washington Avenues that year.

The first Dogwood Festival was held on May 5, 1956, as a community effort to raise funds for new uniforms for the William Byrd High School band.

More than a dozen bands marched in the first parade. In addition to the Byrd Band, musicians representing Woodrow Wilson Junior High in Danville, Lee Junior High in Roanoke, and Woodrow Wilson Junior High in Roanoke performed. High School bands from St. Paul, Christiansburg, Lebanon, Halifax County, George Wythe, Fieldale, William Fleming, George Washington in Danville, Jefferson, Franklin County, and E.C. Glass of Lynchburg marched in the parade.

George Wythe High School won the band competition. Janet Bowman from Jefferson High School was crowned as the first queen. According to “Vinton History 1884-1984,” an estimated 10,000 spectators lined the streets of Vinton for the first parade.

Floats were entered by Burlington Mills, the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce, the Vinton Lions Club, the War Mothers, the Vinton Garden Club, the Byrd Band Boosters, the Vinton Merchants, the 4-H Club, the Vinton Woman’s Club, and the Vinton Chamber of Commerce.

The following year, Vinton Town Council and the town citizens decided to make the celebration an annual event, and the Vinton Dogwood Festival was born.

Invitations were sent to out-of-town bands, while businesses and organizations around Vinton made plans for floats to enter in the parade. By 1959, the public clamor for “bigger and better” festivals compelled organizers to search for additional funds and contributions. Town Council came up with $500 and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce kicked in $750.

The Vinton Woman’s Club donated $100, and individuals pledged various amounts to the festival, which became a huge success. By the time the 1960 festival rolled around, it took more than 800 people to put on the show, and 600 of them were school children.

For many years, celebrities were invited to serve as parade marshals, including actor Steve McQueen, Bob Denver, Bobby Vinton, and Minnie Pearl. One year, Grand Ol’ Opry star Hank Snow didn’t realize he and his band had been booked for the parade and left town early Saturday after performing two concerts on Friday night.

As a nonprofit, community-focused organization, the Vinton Dogwood Festival, Inc., provides family entertainment for the community while promoting the Town of Vinton and businesses in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

The Dogwood Festival Committee would like to thank the following businesses for their donations for 2020–who have generously agreed to put their donations towards the 2021 Dogwood Festival: Len Hale, New York Life; Tim Greenway, Mountain View Realty; Jeff and Susan Teass, Vinton Chiropractic Clinic; Chris McCarty, Grand Storage of Vinton Zachlyn Limited; Dr. George Kervorkian Jr, DDS P.C.; the Law Offices of Richard C. Cranwell; Sherri Winkler, Nite Owl Artz; Tammy Rickman, Rickman Realty; Jeff Janney, Vinton Appliance; Mike Hanger, WFXR; Roanoke County, and the Town of Vinton.

The Vinton Dogwood Festival Committee puts in countless hours to stage the event and collaborates with local organizations and area nonprofits. The festival is funded entirely by donations, sponsorships, and fundraising events, along with fees from concessions, vendors, and carnival.

Members of the 2020 Dogwood Festival Board of Directors include President Connie Houff, 1st Vice President Chasity Barbour, 2nd Vice President Beth Abbott, Treasurer Jeff Teass, Secretary Judy Ralph, Sponsorship Coordinator Karen Obenchain, Vendors Coordinator Brittany Lane, Food Vendor Coordinator Callie Houff, Entertainment Coordinator Joey Nicely, Children’s Area and Media Coordinator Mary Beth Layman,  and Queen’s Court/Reception Coordinators Susan Teass and Nita Echols.

The Dogwood Festival Committee promises a spectacular Dogwood Festival in 2021.

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