Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

March 11, 2012

Azalea Festival draws crowds, human and canine

VALDOSTA — Thousands (and you can double that if you include dogs) turned out for the Valdosta-Lowndes Azalea Festival on Saturday at Drexel Park.

The 12th annual festival kicked off in the wee hours of the morning with a 5K road race and one-mile fun walk/run. While the morning’s weather was windy and cool, the temperature rose to a low 70 degrees, which concocted the perfect environment for an outdoor day of fun.

Andy Stone was out enjoying the festivities with his three-year-old son Henry. Henry is a seasoned festival attendee and was certain not to let his balloon get in the way of petting a horse on display.

“This is his third festival,” said Stone. “Fourth if you count in uteri.”

Not all festival-goers were as experienced as Henry. Lynn Adams, a teacher of speech and language pathology at Valdosta State University, was out enjoying her first Azalea experience with her Great Dane, Gypsy.

“I just moved here from Savannah,” said Adams. “This is wonderful, I’ve never taken (Gypsy) to a crowded event before; my friend told me this event was dog-friendly.”

Gypsy, a rescue, became an attraction herself as adults and children alike lined up to pet her a receive Great Dane-sized kisses.

“She’s loving all the attention,” said Adams.

New features for this year’s festival, such as a live tiger named Tawny and a rainbow lorikeet named Charlie from the Tiger Stripes Sanctuary, were a huge hit. However, even Tawny the tiger couldn’t compete with the Disconnected K9’s World Famous Frisbee Dogs. Not only could some of the dogs jump more that 15 feet in the air, they also managed to draw what looked liked every attendee in the park around their arena.

Entertainers such as juggler Joel Williams, Suzy Sonshine

the clown and a very much alive silver, drum playing statue roamed (with the exception of the statue) Drexel Park, spreading joy to all who encountered them.

There was even a mechanical bull that only the bravest attendees dared to ride. Lucky for 12-year-old Mary Peeples, she had the courage and the boots to get the job done.

“I wanted to ride a bull,” said Peeples with an explanation of a true go-getter.

However, having that much fun on an empty stomach can be daunting. Luckily there was various food vendors at every corner including huge pieces of cooked corn, chicken on a stick and even flavored, kettle cooked popcorn.

“This is our fourth year here,” said Ann Singletary with Cast Iron Kettle Corn.

The energy for Saturday was great, but the party isn’t over yet. The festival will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Drexel Park on the corner of Patterson and Brookwood. For gear heads, if arts and crafts doesn’t get your motor going, then maybe a classic car show will. Registration is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., judging begins at 1 p.m. and trophies will be awarded at 2 p.m.

 Free parking is offered on all VSU lots. For more information, visit www.azaleafestival.com

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

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