Florida Azalea Festival

Florida Azalea Festival
Photo: palatkaazaleafest.com
The Florida Azalea Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Florida as well as one of the most anticipated events in city of Palatka. The two-day festival is held the first full weekend in March at Ravine Gardens State Park and the riverfront in downtown Palatka.

Ravine Gardens State Park was constructed by the federal Works Progress Administration in the early 1930s. It is a 59-acre Florida State Park with thousands of plants and shrubs such as various palms, magnolias, Japanese cherries, dogwood, myrtle, roses, chrysanthemums, and more.

The park is most famous for its diverse collection and high concentration of azaleas. There are more than 100,000 azalea bushes in Ravine Gardens State Park. They bloom in spring, attracting thousands of tourists who come to Palatka to attend the Florida Azalea Festival.

The festival began in 1936. It started as Jaycees Days, a community fundraiser for the local chapter of the U.S. Junior Chamber. The first official Florida Azalea Festival took place in 1938. In the early years the festival was held at the Ravine Gardens. However, it outgrew the park in later years and most of the activities were relocated to the banks of the St. Johns River and St. Johns Avenue in downtown Palatka.

The Florida Azalea Festival is managed by the city’s Main Street Program. Its main highlights include the Azalea Parade, the Azalea Festival Arts and Crafts Show, Azalea Days at Ravine Gardens State Park, the Open Car Show, the Florida Azalea Amateur Golf Tournament, a Bowling Tournament, and the Florida Azalea Beauty Pageant. By the way, the festival’s pageant is one of the oldest beauty pageants in the state of Florida. Miss America 1953 Neva Jane Langley vied to be Miss Florida Azalea Queen in 1949.

The festival attracts about 40,000 attendees from all over the United States. The event is free for anyone to attend featuring arts & crafts vendors, live entertainment, food and the celebrated annual blooms.

Florida Azalea Festival

Photo: John Killian




Related Articles