The Valdosta Daily Times
This weekend, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Azalea Festival returns, seeking a balance between keeping beloved traditions and presenting new attractions.
So, visitors can expect to find the popular Frisbee K-9s again but they should also discover Wild Adventures presenting an area for animal encounters and activities. This year continues a relatively new trend of presenting a motorcycle show on Saturday and a car show on Sunday.
Both days of the Azalea Festival, Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10, will be held at Drexel Park, wedged across from Valdosta State University as well as Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. However, some events start from other locations.
The 2013 festival will offer inflatable children’s attractions, area bands and other entertainment, dozens of vendors of food and arts & crafts, etc.
If past numbers and the weather hold, the Azalea Festival attracts an estimated 20,000 people to Drexel Park during its two-day run.
SCHEDULE & FEATURES
— Kidzone: This area features waterball ride, Frisbee-chasing K9s, pony rides, inflatable attractions, carriage rides, a rock wall, a live tiger by Tiger Stripes Sanctuary, water boat ride. Both days.
— Humane Society Pet Contest: 2 p.m. Saturday, with registration from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. $5 entry fee. More information: Call (229) 247-3266.
— 5K Road Race: Starts 8 a.m. Saturday, with registration and check-in at 7 a.m., starts and finishes at the VSU Recreation Center, 500 Sustella Ave. Pre-registration: $15; day of race: $20. Online registration: Visit runningintheusa.com; or call (229) 259-3507.
— Century Bike Ride: Starts 8 a.m. Saturday, South Lowndes Complex, 6440 Ocean Pond Ave., Lake Park; finishes at this location, too. Pre-registration: 7 a.m. Pre-registration: $30; day of race, $35. Online registration: http://azaleacentury.eventbrite.com; or call (229) 259-3507.
— Arts & crafts vendors, international food court, live entertainment. Both days.
— Live entertainment: Daddy’$ Money, Saturday. TannersLane, Sunday. Extreme Euro Bungee, mechanical bull, entertainment by Wild Adventures, both days.
— Classic Car & Bike Show: Bike show, Saturday. Car show, Sunday. Registration: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. both days. Judging: 1 p.m. Trophy presentation: 2 p.m.
— One Mile Fun Run/Walk: Starts 8 a.m. Saturday, with registration at 7 a.m., VSU Recreation Center, 500 Sustella Ave. Pre-registration: $15; day of race, $20. Online registration: Visit runningintheusa.com; or call (229) 259-3507.
— The Dreadknots from the History Channel’s “Axmen” are scheduled to make a special appearance.
The festival takes its name from the azaleas which densely populate Valdosta. The festival is scheduled annually for mid-March when the azaleas should be in full bloom.
The abundance of azaleas gave Valdosta one of its nicknames — the Azalea City, which inspired the idea behind an annual festival.
In 2000, Joanne Griner initiated the Azalea Festival to celebrate Valdosta’s nickname as the Azalea City. The festival would be held in mid-March to highlight both the season when azaleas normally bloom and to emphasize what Valdosta and Lowndes County have to offer year round.
The first Azalea Festival was held in 2001 with about 5,000 people attending. Through the years, it has undergone various formats, including once being a three-day event, a past partnership with VSU, later hours into the evening, etc.
H. Aaron Strickland is the festival’s third executive director.
More information: Visit www.azaleafestival.com