The Atlanta Dogwood Festival is looking to add some international flavor to its 73rd annual fine art and community celebration on April 17-19.

The Atlanta Dogwood Festival is looking to add some international flavor to its 73rd annual fine arts and community celebration on April 17-19.

Since it hosted the Summer Olympic Games of 1996, Atlanta has attracted many tight-knit ethnic communities who’ve settled in pockets around the metro area.

Many celebrate their own cultural festivals with the same colorful fanfare they would use in their home countries, but the broader community doesn’t often see how this diversity flourishes in Georgia.

“I think a lot of people know just a little bit about it (the international community) but really haven’t been exposed to it or seen it,” said Brian Hill, the Dogwood Festival’s executive director since last year.

The three-day event focuses on the exhibition of fine art. This year more than 1,000 artists from all 50 states submitted online applications featuring their work.  Judges from the metro area chose 275 for exhibition, the most of any year yet, Mr. Hill said.

Among other activities, the festival also features a Frisbee dog championship and musical performances.

This year Mr. Hill envisions adding a new dimension by allowing cultural groups to perform throughout the weekend on a central stage for the festival’s 120,000-150,000 expected attendees.

He’s also looking to spice up one of the mundane realities of hosting a large outdoor festival – golf carts.

As part of a sponsorship program, he wants to have some members of Atlanta’s consular corps decorate the vehicles to represent their countries and cultures.  Attendees would then vote for their favorite cart.

Mr. Hill, who spent a decade directing programming for Centennial Olympic Park after the Games, knows the importance of engaging Atlanta’s increasingly diverse population.

Though it was “just mud and dreams” after the Olympics left, the park became a “magnet” for foreign visitors “because of its relationship to the Games and all the athletes from around the world,” Mr. Hill told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview.

“And we quickly found a lot of people from different cultures lived in Atlanta,” he said.

Mr. Hill remembers issuing news releases in multiple languages, particularly Spanish, to reach readers of minority newspapers around the metro area.

Before coming to Atlanta, Mr. Hill promoted festivals in the U.K. and Germany after a stint working as a photojournalist for the U.S. military.  He also coordinated programs in alignment with the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

The move toward an international focus should be relatively easier than the challenge Mr. Hill faced last year in organizing his first Dogwood Festival. 

Eighty days before it opened, organizers were told they wouldn’t be able to hold the event in Piedmont Park, its traditional location, because the drought-parched grass couldn’t handle the foot traffic.

The festival moved to the parking lot of Lenox Square Mall

“The greatest irony is that it rained three out of the four days,” Mr. Hill said.

The Atlanta Dogwood Festival is back in Piedmont Park this year from April 17-19.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...