The Dogwood; A Symbol of Traditions, Hope and the Little Town of Orleans Celebrating the 50th Dogwood Festival

Lovingly referenced as the front porch of Orange county, with the slogan to “Come and Sit Awhile”, the small, quaint town of Orleans founded in 1815 is one where you’ll feel that hometown charm each and every time you visit. As part of a beautification project led by Elizabeth “Bill” Wheeler, flowering dogwood trees were planted and then a festival was started several years later as a way of boosting local moral and the economy. Kate Noblitt who had helped to found the first Dogwood Festival in 1968, petitioned the Governor in 1970 to proclaim Orleans “The Dogwood Capital of Indiana”. Governor Edgar Whitcomb signed the proclamation on October 26, 1970 making it official.


Orleans front porch


Traditions are a big part of the Dogwood Festival and with this being the 50th Annual Dogwood Festival, it plays a big part in the traditions of the community. Traditions of community members like John Noblitt, (Kate Noblitt’s son) who was voted citizen of the year in 1991. John was the President of the town board when the Festival began and was the chairman for the festival 7 years in a row. John says, “It’s a chance to get to know others in our community, we should know our neighbors.”

Robert Henderson the town clerk and President of Orleans Chamber of Commerce stated, “We need reasons to come together, to build a community, we need to engage in our community. Embrace and share traditions to create new and happy memories.”



Of course, the Dogwood Festival has grown throughout the past 50 years. With 9 days and 40 events, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Some of the events are a part of the traditions that bring you home in search of that familiar hometown feel; one that has long been a part of you as a young child attending the town fair. Events like the Kiwanis breakfast, the pet parade, electing a queen, the bean supper, the bubble contest and live music have all played a part in creating memories of festival goers over the 50-year span of the fair.  Some things have come and gone but these events seem to play an important role in bringing the community together and keeping them coming back again and again.

Opening ceremonies will include a special community event, “Mayberry Values” featuring entertainment special celebrity guest Rodney Dillard of The Andy Griffith Show, a wonderful evening of songs, stories, and humor. Newer events like the Dogwood Pedal Ride and a murder mystery dinner theater hope to bring new generations to love the Dogwood Festival as much as the rest of the community has over the past 50 years. Evolving the festival with new ideas and events helps to ensure that it will be a part of the fabric of Orleans for years to come!



Art has also been an ongoing part of the festival,  A local Orleans High School advanced art student created the artwork below which will be featured on the cover of the Official 2018 Souvenir Program to be published by The Orleans Progress Examiner.

Also, this year a Dogwood art collectible ornament will be offered as a souvenir to commemorate the 50th anniversary. The local artist was commissioned to create one-of-a-kind artwork specifically for the project.

50th Dogwood Festival

“Celebrating the blossom for a Season-Celebrating the Memories for a Lifetime” is the theme for the 50th Dogwood Festival. So, when the Dogwoods bloom in Orleans this year, bring yourself on home to sit on the front porch of Orange county and enjoy the hometown festival that kisses winter goodbye and welcomes spring with beautiful blooming trees and heartfelt memories.


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Spring in to French Lick West Baden to Celebrate Easter.

Family gatherings, spring showers, flowers blooming, Easter egg hunts, the Easter bunny and warmer weather are on all of our minds, after being inside all winter. We have all of this and more to celebrate the season! French Lick West Baden is full of fun for the entire family!

spring flowers 2


Easter Bunny Express

easter egg hunt

Hop aboard the Easter Bunny Express at the French Lick Scenic Railway and enjoy a fun filled train excursion complete with an Easter Egg Hunt, prizes and a chance for pictures with the Easter Bunny! If you can’t make it for the Easter Bunny Express The French Lick Scenic Railway also offers Scenic Train rides, Wild West Hold Ups and Tasting Trains.


Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark and Hotel


Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark and Hotel a 40,000 square foot waterpark with a retractable roof. With exciting fun that includes multiple water slides, lazy lost river, splish splash pool for toddlers and Buccaneer Bay with nearly 50 interactive play features the entire family will find a reason to have a splashtacular time!



Mommy and Me Tea


Little princes and princesses will enjoy spending quality Mommy time while sipping gourmet tea and enjoying finger sandwiches, scones and petit fours. Be treated like royalty while practicing your manners in the spectacular West Baden Springs Hotel Atrium.



Twist the Night Away

1.Twist the Night Away - Promo Pic

Relive the rocking era of the 1950’s with sounds like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline. This family oriented dinner and show is an exciting way to spend an evening out with family. The show is jam packed with live singing and dancing leaving you wanting to “Twist the Night Away”!


Find all of these exciting events and more right here in #MyFrenchLick come and Create Memories Here!


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Close Encounters with Elephants in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana

Have a once in a lifetime experience with elephants in French Lick West Baden, Indiana. Wilstem Ranch houses three elephants during March – November every year. Plan your visit to the area so you can make memories with the largest mammals on the planet!


Bathe the elephants


At Wilstem Ranch, you can sign up to participate in a “Spa Day” with the elephants. One of the activities involves bathing the enormous creatures! The elephants enjoy splashing around, and you can join in on the fun. Help these big animals cool down with a nice bath, and watch them play in the water.


“Paint” their toenails



There’s nothing like a relaxing pedicure, and the elephants at Wilstem Ranch agree! Children participating in the elephant spa day can “paint” the toenails of the elephants. This moment is sure to produce an ear-to-ear grin on any little one’s face! (Please note all children must be accompanied by an adult.)


Spa days last an hour, and are followed by an hour long elephant encounter experience.


Spend an hour learning about the elephants and ask questions.


If you are not interested in the “spa package” perhaps you would enjoy the hour long elephant encounter! Get to know the elephants by asking the elephant experts questions like…How do elephants sleep? How much food do they eat? And how much does that thing weigh??


Touch the elephants and their ivory tusks.



Who hasn’t dreamed of petting an elephant? These gentle giants have captured the hearts of humans for centuries, and now you finally have your chance to pet them! The elephant encounter allows all the participants to have a bucket-list-worthy moment by softly petting the elephant and their ivory tusks.


Take a selfie with the elephants!



Break the internet with your best selfie yet! Everyone gets the chance to snap a pic with these beautiful beasts. When you are done taking the selfie of a lifetime, be sure to share it using our hashtag #MyFrenchLick. After you have posted your selfie, check out more photos of elephants, and things to do in the area on our Instagram.


Visit with other animals at Wilstem Ranch.


Think you can handle more excitement? Wilstem Ranch also provides the opportunity to interact with special animals like giraffes, kangaroos, and more! You can also arrange private encounters with the giraffes – making this a dream destination for animal lovers of all ages!


Request a copy of our visitors guide to learn more about Wilstem Ranch and other attractions to add to your itinerary in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana!