How the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration is an Event Tourism Economic Driver
Wednesday, March 08, 2023
The renowned Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration is here again in Palestine, TX, March 17–April 2, 2023! While the fun, festivities, and blossoms are the focus, its impact as an economic driver should be appreciated.
The Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration is a classic “hallmark event” as described in “Progress and prospects for event tourism research” (Tourism Management): “‘hallmark’ describes an event that possesses such significance, in terms of tradition, attractiveness, quality, or publicity, that the event provides the host venue, community, or destination with a competitive advantage. Over time, the event and destination can become inextricably linked.”
While the study of event tourism started to take shape in the 1980s, Palestine’s Dogwood Trails Celebration is in its 85th year. The community has been leveraging its natural assets and community place-making before the terms even existed.
“The Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration is a three-week long celebration honoring the blooming cycle of the dogwood,” said Mary Raum, Tourism Marketing Manager, City of Palestine, Texas. The trees are found in the 254-acre Davey Dogwood Park and throughout the city, now including the 44-block Main Street District where more than 20 trees were planted this last season.
“Historically, the three weeks of the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration are 20 percent more valuable to the bottom line of the hotel industry in Palestine than any other seasonal time period,” continued Raum. “Most people find that number surprising because we are host to The Polar Express Train Ride™ in November and December, which brings up to 67,000 riders within a six-week period. The difference is the customer. The holiday traveler typically has a lower disposable income, multiple children in the household, and less time to spend in a destination. So most of those guests only spend one night, compared to a Heritage traveler who can spend three to four days in a destination.”
Heritage travel is described by The National Trust for Historic Preservation as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” Heritage travel and event tourism are two sides of the same coin in Palestine, TX.
What to Expect at the Dogwood Trails Celebration
Palestine — located in the piney woods of East Texas just 1-1/2 hours from Dallas and 2-1/2 hours from Houston — is graced with stately homes, beautiful historical sites, gorgeous scenic drives, and Texas charm and hospitality.
The star of the Celebration is always the gorgeous and prolific dogwood tree blossoms. “The blooming cycle is always at the mercy of Mother Nature, and sometimes blooms come early, and other times, they are right on time,” said Raum. “The flowers bloom over 21 days from the opening of the bud to the brackets dropping as the leaves push them off. We encourage people to follow the Visit Palestine, Texas, Facebook page as we post a bloom watch update there periodically throughout the season to help guests better determine when they would like to visit.”
Download The 2023 Dogwood Celebration Flyer or visit the events calendar for complete details. Celebration highlights include the Dogwood Brunch Train, Dogwood Arts and Music Festival, Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival, Old Town Spring Market, Palestine Farmers Market, “Clue the Musical,” stained glass tours, Dogwood Jamboree, Fairy Garden Trail, and specialty dinners at Sabor a Pasion Estate and Vineyard, and so much more.
“The newest additions to the Celebration are the Slow Meat Feast on March 18 and the Tahwahkaro Whiskey Dinner on April 1,” said Raum. “A ‘fan favorite’ is the Fairy Garden Trail. In its fifth year, it is a community-based project that hundreds of people get behind.”
History and Folklore
According to Visit Palestine, TX, the conception of the Dogwood Trails Celebration happened over a cup of coffee in 1938 during a casual conversation between Charles W. Wooldridge, the power company manager, and Eugene Fish, a bank president, about the unique landscape and beauty of the blooms in the region. Excited by their discussion, they walked into the local newspaper to suggest inviting all to come and view the spectacular sight of the flowering dogwood trees. Within days, the article was picked up by various newspapers, and by the end of the blooming season, 20,000 people came to visit. The following year, the number of visitors doubled.
While visiting Palestine, you can purchase artfully decorated dogwood blossom sugar cookies at the oldest operating bakery in Texas, Eilenberger’s Bakery, which dates to 1898. For 125 years, their pecan loaded fruitcake has been legendary.
There is also legend surrounding the symbolism of the dogwood blooms themselves. In Christianity, the lore goes that the dogwood was used to make the cross Jesus was crucified upon because it grew tall and strong like an oak in those times. The story follows that the dogwood was ashamed of its role and begged the forgiveness of Jesus, who transformed its branches to be slender and gnarled so that it could never again be made into a cross. But so that its role in the crucifixion could never be forgotten, Jesus made its flower into a cross with blood-red stained nail prints at the edges and a crown of thorns in the middle.
According to Native American folklore, the dogwood tree resulted from a punishment for a powerful chief who demanded rich gifts from suitors for his four daughters. The gods, angered by his greed, turned him into a small tree with low branches that would never grow tall. His four daughters are symbolized in the four petals of the blossom.
More Resources for Your Visit
Palestine Tourism at visitpalestine.com has planning resources to enhance your trip. They offer online itineraries and maps to tour Palestine’s sculptures, caboose art installations, murals, and historic homes. Explore options for dining, shopping, and lodging, including VRBO and Airbnb listings, the historic Redlands Hotel, and RV parks. Check out Visit Palestine, Texas, on Facebook and Instagram.
Palestine Economic Development Corporation
The mission of PEDC is to promote and facilitate responsible commercial and industrial business retention and growth that expands, diversifies, and strengthens the local tax base while enhancing local amenities and destination attractions throughout the City of Palestine.
To learn more about incentives and opportunities in Palestine, Texas, contact the PEDC at 903-729-4100 or via email. We are prepared for growth and ready to provide immediate and customized assistance. Explore our available properties here.