Outdoor Dazzling Dahlia Festival may set precedent

The 10th Annual Dazzling Dahlia Festival was held outdoors this year with over 30 dahlia vignettes on display throughout Highlands over the weekend. Traditionally held in the Civic Center to benefit the Highlands Historical Society, the format was changed in response to COVID-19.

Participants in the 10th Annual Dahlia Festival at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park.

Festival Chairwoman and HHS Board Member Kim Daugherty came up with the idea and was the driving force that put this event together in just over 60 days.

“The possibility to do a socially distanced outdoor dahlia festival, with emphasis on Highlands history and locations was an exciting one,” she said. “The goal was to give our town a hug, some joy, a smile; and to share the history and beauty of this magical place. History doesn’t take a break, so the historical society decided that we would bravely write a positive chapter for 2020.”

September Sunday Morning, Highlands United Methodist Church

Visitors were guided to historic sites throughout town as they walked the “Dahlia Trail” and voted online for their favorites.

“Many, many have shared their thoughts that Dazzling Dahlia should always have this fun and entertaining format,” said Dougherty. “It appealed to a very wide range of people, and both locals and visitors alike were enjoying the vignettes. In the end about 550 votes were cast online with the winners selected by those votes.”

Fueling the Plateau, All Roads Lead to Highlands, Wild Azalea Garden Club


Best of Show: Dahlias at the Bascom

Dahlias at the Bascom. Photo by Marty Boone, Boonedocks PhotoGraphics.

From left are Dahlia Co-chair Lisa Dailey; Best in Show winner and Bascom Board Member Ruthie Edwards; and Dahlia Co-chair Kim Daugherty.

First place: Steal Dahlias, Mountain Garden Club

Steal Dahlias at the Highlands Old Jail

From left are Lisa Dailey, and First Place winners from the Mountain Garden Club Ellie Houston (president M.G.C.), Kim Daugherty, Joey Swartz, and Ginny Dunwoody. 

Second place: Kirkin’ & Barefootin,’ by Helen Steward, and gang

Kirkin’ & Barefootin at First Presbyterian Church

From left are Kim Daugherty and Second Place winner Helen Steward (Kirkin’ & Bearfootin’ by Helen Steward, Ruthie Watts, Susie Day, Kris Nelson, & Natalie Jones).

Third place: Nature’s Beauty Cannot be Caged, Vineyard at 37 High Holly

Nature’s Beauty Cannot be Caged at Town Square. Photo by Marty Boone.

Honorable mentions:

X Marked the Spot, Laurel Garden Club

The Bee’s Knees, Drew English, Drew’s Dahlias

Still Life with Flowers, Jodie Zahner. Photo by Marty Boone.

Ruthie Edwards, Bascom Board Member and one of the designers of Dahlias at The Bascom, said this year’s format was a big success.

Participants rewarded Dahlia Co-chairs from left Lisa Daily and Kim Daugherty with a bottle of Champagne after the awards were handed out at Founders Park.

“This format reaches more people,” said Edwards. “It’s spread out all over town and it’s engaged shopkeepers, grocery stores, restaurants, churches, all kinds of people in the community. For those participating, it’s a more relaxed way to arrange flowers and you’re not worried about breaking the rules.”

Arch at Old Edwards Inn

Carol Miller, designer of Delightful Dahlias and Furry Friends, one of several displays located at Kelsey Hutchinson Founders Park, said this was her first time participating in the Dahlia Festival and she can’t wait to do it again.

Delightful Dahlias with Floral and Furry Friends. Photo by Marty Boone.

Designer Carol Miller said the flower pot is supposed to be knocked over as bears are prone to knock over garbage cans, but visitors kept standing the pot up.

“This is my first year participating and I loved it,” said Miller. “It was a professional show, but I think this way is better because it brings in more people, more interest. People can come to town and shop and see dahlias. And from a participant’s perspective it’s a lot more fun because you can use other flowers from North Carolina.”

High Style at Tug’s Proper. Photo by Maggie Burd.

In this year’s Festival, participants were allowed to use flowers native to N.C. along with dahlias. Each vignette also included a story pertaining to the history of Highlands.

Daugherty said it takes a special community to pull off an event like this in such a short amount of time and it couldn’t have been possible without the support of the Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor and Town Manager Josh Ward.

High Hampton Stay True – 2020 and the Year of COVID-19. Also pictured at the top of the article.

“Thanks to Highlands Police for keeping us all safe, and thanks to everyone who exhibited as well as everyone who attended for being safe and respectful of each other and Highlands,” said Daugherty. “We want to sincerely thank everybody who entered this different new Dahlia format; your creativity and efforts exceeded expectations!”

Planting Seeds for a Better Tomorrow, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust

Daugherty added that she especially thanked Lisa Dailey, Dahlia Festival Co-chair, for all her hard work and talent.

“Lastly, thanks to Mr. Evil COVID for making us think beyond what we usually do,” she said. “Stay tuned next year for the new and more entertaining Dazzling Dahlia Festival. Hopefully COVID will not be the ruling force and we can dazzle everyone with the talent and beauty of the Highlands plateau.”

To donate to Highlands Historical Society and to see a complete list of dahlia displays, participants, and stories, click HERE.

From left are Ruth Claiborne, Sandy Norton, Ruthie Watts, and Jill Helmer. They didn’t take home a ribbon, but they enjoyed rocking hats in support of their dahlia theme at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.

Sunday Church Hats, Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.

Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park was bustling over the weekend for the 10th annual Dazzling Dahlia Festival.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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Eye-catching Dahlias

Stealing Dahlias, Mountain Garden Club

High Hampton Stay True – 2020 and the Year of COVID-19

Framing Nature, Village Square

X Marked the Spot, Laurel Garden Club

Kirkin’ & Barefootin at First Presbyterian Church

Sunday Church Hats, Episcopal Church of the Incarnation

High Style, Tugs Proper. Photos by Maggie Burd

Hello Dahlia, Highlands Playhouse

Highlands Lawn & Garden, in honor of those who have served, do serve, and will serve our great country on the front lines here and all over the world!

Rotary Club of Highlands, 75 Years

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