33,000 azaleas later

Azaleas at Riverfront Park

The annual Flowertown Festival is born

If you’re a Summerville resident, chances are you have been to the annual YMCA Flowertown Festival. If not– then surely you have been shopping at Azalea Square. But have you ever wondered where Summerville’s love for the flowering shrub began?

Over 80 years ago, a group of ladies, who called themselves the “Civic League,” raised funds to buy 16 acres of land, between Magnolia St. + Central Ave., for their garden club (known as the Flowertown Garden Club today). That piece of land?–  Azalea Park.

It was amidst The Great Depression that Mayor Grange Cuthbert, a flower enthusiast, envisioned drawing visitors to Summerville by filling the park with beautiful azaleas. Through increased tourism, Cuthbert hoped to boost the local economy. The Civic League donated the park to the city, and by using a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant and paying workers, including his own son, 10 cents an hour, he turned the property from “bramble into beauty”the only thing missing? The flowers.

He reached out to George Segelken, a local nurseryman, to help his vision come to life. Mr. Segelken graciously donated 33,000 azaleas, most of which he planted himself. Amongst the blooms– a salmon-colored flower known as the “Pride of Summerville.” Mayor Cuthbert’s vision did indeed come to fruition as tourists filled Summerville on Sunday afternoons to see the azaleas.

Then, in 1972, the Young Women’s Christian Organization (YWCO) visualized a springtime celebration surrounded by the blooming azaleas that would act as a fundraiser for YWCO efforts, including their community projects for local children. The event, now known as the Flowertown Festival, was met with such success, that it has continued on through today. And the YWCO– it’s now the Summerville Family YMCA.

Each year, the festival supports the improvement of, and access to, health + wellness programs to over 5,000 local members including military families, children, + cancer survivors. Funds from the event have also helped build the Oakbrook YMCA, finished an outdoor pool + sports field, and in 1995 build the Wellness Center at 208 W. Doty Ave.

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Voted in 2017 as a ‘Top 20 Event’ by Southeast Tourism, the Flowertown Festival brings in over 200,000 attendees + is one of the largest arts + crafts events in the Southeast. Can’t wait to see it for yourself?  The 47th annual festival is this weekend, April 5-7 at Azalea Park.

Here’s what you can expect:

To do

    • Arts: Over 200 jury-selected artists from around the country will be on display. Explore– and if so inclined– purchase ceramics, art for children, home decor, drawings, glasswork, jewelry, paintings, + more.
    • Dish: Local vendors including Kona Ice, Greekin Out, Toast of Summerville, Holy City Cupcakes, Wild Bill’s Old Fashion Soda Shop, + more.
    • Shop: Booths by Discovery Toys, EZ Hang Chairs, Kim’s Fine Jewelry Lakeside Marina + Resort, Music in Motion, Summerville/Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, + more.
    • Network: Connect with groups including Azalea Society of America, Dorchester Habitat for Humanity, South Carolina Aquarium, Summerville Moms, + more.
    • ForKids: Get your face painted by Brilliant Faces Body Art, or take a ride on the Ferris Wheel, Sea the Ray Pirate Ship, or Thomas the Train.

There’s an app for that

Download the Flowertown Festival App from the App Store or Google Play. The app will help you navigate through the festival with maps, give you details on where to park, show you all the vendors you can check out, and provide access to coupons, savings, + contests.

Before you go…
it’s important to know what you can or cannot bring:

Allowed: Cameras, credit/debit cards (ATMs are available), tote bags to carry your purchases, umbrellas (just in case), bug spray.

Not Allowed: Drones, personal golf carts, weapons, pets.

Are you heading to Summerville this weekend with your buds to check out the blooms? Be sure you share your photos with the hashtags #CHStoday + #FlowertownFestival.