In Paducah, there are festivals that have a concrete date on the calendar and then there's the Dogwood Trail, which relies on Mother Nature. The warm weather and rain have put trail organizers on track to have trees in full splendor in the next few weeks, but buds and blooms on trees all over the city peeked through the greenery to accent the city's annual Dogwood Trail Ride on Sunday afternoon.
Cyclists clamored onto the trail in droves for the 26th annual Dogwood Trail Ride, an 11-mile tour that travels along Paducah's Dogwood trail. The ride, which was attended by hundreds of bicyclists, is just the beginning of weeks of events aimed at celebrating the trail's 50th anniversary. This year's trail, themed "Light Up Paducah-Shine for the 50th!" opened Sunday evening as well. Lights will be kept on the dogwoods throughout the spring season.
"I feel like we have been incredibly lucky," Civic Beautification Board member Dabney Haugh said. "The dogwoods are just coming into their own right now, but it's going to get colder next week and the blooms will be prolonged. I think the quilters are going to be greeted with dogwoods, and they're going to be thrilled."
Haugh said the perfect timing is welcomed, especially after the CBB's brand new Dogwood Trail banner was ripped to shreds by the high winds that have been pushing through the area.
The 50th anniversary celebration continues today at 10 a.m. at the Yeiser Art Center with the announcement of the winners of the Dogwood/Quilt Show window contest. Judging is set to take place Tuesday and Wednesday for the trees along the trail, and award winners will be announced at the April 21 Paducah City Commission meeting. Trolley rides with the Paducah Area Transit System trolley will offer abbreviated Dogwood Trail rides for $1 per person at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Thursday evening.
Because of the unpredictability of the flowering trees, organizers often have to adjust judging and trail times to allow for the maximum return. It is incredibly rare for the trail to be at its peak when the American Quilter's Society quilt show is in town, which is usually slated for the last week in April.
"It would be such a delight," Haugh said. "We are expecting so many more visitors this year, as well. For 50 years, people in this community have been going out, buying trees and lighting them up. It really is amazing that this community is so dedicated and devoted to the Dogwood Trail."
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.