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.
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.
“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.