Highlands had an explosion of color throughout town before the onset of fall during this year’s Dazzling Dahlia Festival in early September.
The annual Festival is a fundraiser for the Highlands Historical Society and entails a judged bloom competition; and vignettes set up throughout town using dahlias, native flowers and plants, and props. This year raised $5,000 and HHS Board Member and Dahlia Chair Kim Dougherty said the weekend was a success.
Vignette exhibitors were asked to “Tell us a story,” with an emphasis on local history.
“This year’s Dahlia Festival went really well, the weather was perfect, which is a key factor in a successful weekend,” said Dougherty. “The vignettes were very creative and colorful, with everything from a fire with smoke dahlia box, to elephants on Main Street and a bear in Founders Park, there was something for everyone. The use of stories and flowers had humor, history, and high style.”
What began as a judged event where dahlia growers had a chance to showcase their finest blooms, has evolved into something that local organizations, businesses, and people in the community can take part in.
With the arrival of COVID and the restrictions that followed, an indoor bloom competition was prohibited and last year’s Dahlia Festival was in jeopardy of being cancelled. In response, Dougherty and her team came up with the idea for outdoor vignettes throughout town.
“This year we repeated the dahlia vignettes around town, with the public voting for their favorites,” said Dougherty. “We also added a panel of anonymous judges who diligently worked to award good design, story, use of dahlias, and creativity. They had a very difficult time deciding on winners. They spent hours deliberating, and there were a couple of vignettes that were not recognized that the judges really wanted to mention.”
This time around also saw the return of the judged bloom competition, which is traditionally held indoors at the Highlands Rec Park, but was moved to the open-aired patio at The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts. There were 21 exhibitors who entered 156 blooms, which were judged by Garden Club of America judges and on display for the public.
Also at The Bascom was a display in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, which was also recognized at the flagpole in front of the Highlands Police Department.
Dougherty said HHS hosts this free event each year as another way to help enrich the community, but pulling it off is a team effort.
“Doing two separate but simultaneous events was challenging, but with the help of The Bascom, the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the HHS board, and many dedicated volunteers it went really well,” said Dougherty. “It takes many people to plan and execute an event that is all around Highlands. HHS wants to thank everybody that gave their time, their flowers, (it takes A LOT of flowers), and their talents for the success for the 11th annual Dazzling Dahlia Festival. This is a festival by us, about us, and for us!”
In addition to entry fees, 130 flower arrangements were sold throughout the festival raising almost $2,000. All floral arrangements were made from donated flowers by volunteers who took the time to create the arrangements and sell them.
Dougherty said there were 16 arrangements left after the Festival that were taken to Chestnut Hill where the residents had were able to select an arrangement to brighten their room.
Dougherty thanked all those who make the annual event possible and said plans are in the works for next year’s Dahlia Festival scheduled for mid-September.
“Thanks to the growers and exhibitors that generously share their talents with our community,” she said. “What a gift, between the creative displays, the stories and the gorgeous flowers, Dahlia Festival is a feast for the senses.”
“Dahlia Show” individual bloom competition at The Bascom, Best of Show: Mary Dotson, Pompom
Read about last year’s Dazzling Dahlia Festival HERE.