20,000 expected to visit Valdosta's Azalea Festival - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

20,000 expected to visit Valdosta's Azalea Festival

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VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -

Nearly 200 vendors began stetting up today for this weekend's Azalea Festival in Valdosta. 20,000 people are expected to come out for one of the largest festivals in south Georgia. WALB News Ten's Lydia Jennings tells us about all the fun you can expect this weekend.

With nearly 50 more craft, entertainment, and food vendors than last year, organizers expect this year's festival to be the most successful.

"We have at least five different states represented with vendors that come from all over," said Executive Director, Aaron Strickland.  

Joanne Griner started the festival 13 years ago with a crowd of 5,000 and now it's grown to 20,000 visitors. She says it's a great boost for our local economy.

"They stay in our hotels and they eat in our restaurants after they leave the festival. It's very satisfying to see so many people enjoy the park," said Griner.

The festival is held in Drexel Park, named after Richard Drexel who served as the city's first Superintendent of Parks. You can find plenty of Valdosta's signature azaleas in full bloom there.

In 1925, Mr. Drexel planted hundreds of thousands of azaleas all over the city for the community to enjoy, giving Valdosta it's nickname the Azalea City.

But it's not just the flowers people come out to see. This year Wild Adventures will put on a show, History Channel's Ax Men will be there, along with horse and train rides for kids, rock climbing, a classic car and bike show, a mechanical bull, food, live entertainment, and much more.

"The word is growing you know, with this being the 13th year a lot of people have come to expect it and look forward to it," said Strickland.

All the fun runs tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Festival admission and parking are free.

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