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Atlanta Dogwood Festival Brings Home The Gold

The annual Piedmont Park festival continues to earn significant recognition for the overwhelming success of its Green Festival Initiative

Staff Report

The International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) recently honored the Atlanta Dogwood Festival at the IFEA’s 57th Annual Convention & Expo in Denver, where the festival was presented with a number of major awards in the IFEA/Haas & Wilkerson Pinnacle Awards competition including the prestigious Gold for the Best Environmental Program.

The 76th annual event was staged last April in Piedmont Park featuring an artist market, kid zone, music performances and food, among other activities. The 77th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival will take place April 19 – 21, 2013.

“The Atlanta Dogwood Festival is not only a must-attend annual event for our residents and visitors, but also a true model of environmental best practices,” said Mayor Kasim Reed in a news release. “Congratulations and thanks to everyone with the Dogwood Festival for their hard work and commitment to the arts, education and the creation of a more sustainable city.”

Winning entries came from organizations as diverse as the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC; the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo in Houston, Texas; Norfolk Festevents in Norfolk, Virginia; the 500 Festival, Indianapolis, Indiana; the Dublin Irish Festival, Dublin, Ohio; the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver, Colorado and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California.

International contenders included such diverse event organizations as the Hanseong Bakje Cultural Festival, Seoul, Korea; Showtime Events, New Delhi, India; World Gourmet Summit, Singapore; Krakow Festival Office, Krakow, Poland; Rotterdam Festivals, The Netherlands; Festival Lent, Slovenia and Shambhala Music Festival, Nelson, BC, Canada.  

Since 2010, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival has engaged in an award-winning Green Event Initiative that once again has earned the respect of other festivals from around the world. Since the Atlanta Dogwood Festival was founded in 1936 with the environment in mind, it is only fitting that the festival has now been honored for its initiative to inform and educate the public and advance its Eco-friendly practices.

The Atlanta Dogwood Festival has worked with the partners including Live Thrive, the U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia Chapter, TRRU Production Services, as well as its operations team and a variety of vendors to add sustainable operations to the three-day event. Through the Eco-Village, the festival also provided a forum to teach visitors sustainability practices and to highlight efforts of other organizations and businesses to make homes, offices and the city in general a “greener environment.”

With more than 200,000 visitors to the festival each spring, the Green Initiative has a wide reach, and the education component leads to a ripple effect. Important aspects of the Green Initiative for 2012 included requirements for food vendors to use only recyclable and compostable serving ware, the use of bio-diesel and/or bio-fuel for all generators, the Eco-Village, a publicity campaign encouraging the convenient use of MARTA public transportation to get to the festival, a request that the Port-o-John vendor use only bio-degradable cleaning products and the onsite presence of Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) that offered education to the public concerning environmental stewardship, habitat preservation and restoration and wildlife rehabilitation.

Waste Recovery & Recycling Centers were also located throughout the park to collect compostables, recyclables, and landfill waste. These centers were staffed by the Girl Scouts of America as part of their “Forever Green Initiative” in order to assist and educate festival-goers on which materials go in which containers and why.

The Atlanta Dogwood Festival Green Initiative has proven so successful that festival executive director Brian Hill has been a speaker to audiences of festival representatives from Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana at a number of annual conferences on the subject of “How to Make a Festival Truly Green.” The success of the Dogwood program has also led to invitations to speak in Orlando, Miami and Chattanooga on the right way to start a “Green Program.”

 How good were the statistics from the Dogwood Green Initiative for 2012? They were excellent. By requiring all food and beverage vendors to use recyclable and compostable plates, cups and utensils, the festival recycled petroleum-based plastics and Styrofoam rather than send it to the landfill. With the help of the Girl Scouts, the festival diverted more than 40 percent of all solid waste by delivering .4 tons of compost to Greenco Commercial Composting and nearly five tons of recycled materials to SP Recycling Company. Through a partnership with Perfect Circle, the festival used bio-diesel made of spent grease from the food vendors for all of the festival power produced by onsite generators.

Other awards won by the Atlanta Dogwood Festival at the IFEA’s 57th Annual Convention & Expo were:

Silver for Best Community Outreach Program for the International Village and Stage

Silver for Best Educational Program for the Atlanta High School Art Exhibition

Bronze for Best Event within a Festival for the Atlanta High School Art Exhibition

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