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Fairfield 375: The Flower of Fairfield -- Dogwood Festival blooms again this weekend

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of nearly 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

The dogwood flower has become Fairfield's signature symbol, inspired by the Dogwood Festival celebrated each year on the grounds of Greenfield Hill Congregational Church -- and by the thousands pink-and-white petaled dogwood trees along Fairfield roads.

The roots of the Dogwood Festival date to 1936, set on a card table in front of the church. Members of the historic church's Women's Guild sold handmade pot holders, aprons and pickles to townspeople who came to see the beauty of the flowering dogwoods.

The festival has grown into a three-day event, welcoming large crowds to buy not only the handmade goods still sold by the women of the church, but arts-and-crafts vendors, antiques, a luncheon and dinner party, plant sales and even a road race/fun run.

This year, the Dogwood Festival takes place from Friday through Sunday.

Perhaps the most famous visitor to the festival was in 1938, when then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to view the flowering spectacle. She described the dogwood blossoms in her syndicated newspaper column "My Day," which she wrote faithfully six days a week for nearly 30 years.

"I hardly know where to begin in telling you about our trip into Connecticut yesterday," her column began on May 7, 1938. She described "an avenue of pink and white dogwood on Greenfield Hill such as I have never seen anywhere else in this country."

Roosevelt apparently visited Greenfield Hill the week before the actual festival that year. "They tell me next Sunday will be Dogwood Sunday and every road will be blocked with cars bringing people from far and near to enjoy the beauty of the road and of others near the hill," the column continued.

The festival is still held each year on the grounds of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church -- 1045 Old Academy Road. The church was founded in 1725 and the current sanctuary was constructed in 1855, but remodeled extensively after damage from a hurricane in 1944.

For more information about this year's Dogwood Festival, visit: http://bit.ly/1mWeWKj

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