By M,ARCIA LANE
Palatka rolls out the welcome mat this weekend as one of the state’s oldest festivals – 71 years and counting — celebrates azaleas and Spring.
While much of Florida Azalea Festival 2017 is downtown, visitors also can enjoy the 21stannual Azalea Days Festival at Ravine Gardens State Park.
Florida Azalea Festival 2017 kicks off Saturday with a parade down Main Street featuring Shriners from around the state making merry in a variety of vehicles. Joining them will be local and area groups. Grand Marshal this year is 2016 Miss Florida Courtney Sexton.
Main Street is one block north of Reid Street (U.S. 17) and the parade runs from 11th to Second streets. Main has the room to allow Shriners to maneuver their vehicles, say officials.
Many of the festival activities are along the riverfront and St. Johns Avenue, one block south of Reid. Both Saturday and Sunday, visitors can enjoy activities, vendors, entertainment and a kids area. Both days pet adoption agencies will be at the festival.
On Saturday a riverfront car show is at the riverfront featuring antique, musical and special interest cars and trucks. Day of event registration is welcome.
A main stage at the Putnam County Courthouse is set up and entertainment is set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Demonstration by Academy of Rising Stars and USA Gymnastics will be going on at Third Street and St. Johns Avenue on Saturday.
Rat Island Yacht Club is set to run several events including a boat cruise. In their words – “to where … to be determined.” On Saturday a boat show and best boat selection will be at the floating docks and fixed pier along the riverfront, and visitors are welcome. On Sunday Rat Island Yacht Club will hold sailboat racing beginning at 10 a.m.
The 2017 Florida Azalea Pageant is 6 p.m. Saturday (March 4) at C.L. Overturf Sixth Grade Center Auditorium on South 18th Street. Tickets are $10.
This is the pageant first year back as an official Miss Florida Preliminary Pageant. In past years, several future Miss Americas won at Palatka.
Contestants begin showing up Thursday for the official photo shoot at Ravine Gardens State Park and the attend the Mayor’s Reception Friday night at the Bronson-Mulholland House. GFWC Woman’s Club holds a luncheon “Tiara and Lace” on Saturday at the clubhouse on South 13thStreet. Some tickets are still available for the public. Miss Florida will be there. Linda Myers, Putnam County tax collection, serves as M.C.
Azalea Days Festival at Ravine Gardens is Saturday (March 4) and Sunday (March 5) at the state park on Twigg Street in Palatka.
Wagon tours, music, local vendors featuring arts, crafts, non-profits, plants and more are part of the event that runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. You can take a nature hike back in time with 18th century naturalist William Bartram, enjoy refreshments at the Garden Cub’s Tea Room and cat the Pilot Club of Palatka Puppet Show. Food and beverages can be purchased during the event.
Admission is free with regular park entry fees: ($2 per person for walk-ins, $4 per vehicle drive-in with one person, and $5 per vehicle drive-ins with 2-8 people).