The Florida Azalea Festival is one of Florida's oldest and longest running festivals that attracts thousands of visitors to Palatka from all around the state. The festival began in 1936 and is centered around the beautiful flowering Azalea shrub with a peak blooming season in Florida between January and April.
Ravine Gardens State Park boasts close to 100,000 flowering trees and shrubs that wash the park in glorious shades of color during the festival. The park is one of nine New Deal-era state parks in Florida. The ravine that had been carved into the landscape over thousands of years by water flowing from the St. Johns River was converted into an amazing garden by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1933. By 1934, more than 95,000 flowers had been planted on the grounds and three years later in 1937 the gardens were declared "the Nation's Outstanding CWA Project." Today, it remains much the same as the original landscaping can be found in the formal gardens and trail system.
The Azalea Pageant is a tradition that began in 1938 at the Amphitheater in the park. The first pageant had 10 contestants and the Queen was crowned with a white azalea bloom crown and given a matching bouquet. In addition, she received a $100 reward and was photographed in Ravine Gardens.
The 18th Annual Azalea Days is an old-fashioned, family friendly park event where park guests will find numerous activities to take part in over the weekend. Event activities include:
- A ranger-led wagon tour around the 1.8 mile loop through the park
- Hiking trails lined with thousands of blooms of azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias and camellias
- Food vendors for purchasing refreshments
- Artwork to view and purchase from the Palatka Art League and CREATE
Azalea Days takes place on Saturday, March 1, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday, March 2, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Entrance into Ravine State Gardens is $5.00 per car and $2.00 for pedestrians/bicyclists. Take note that the park loop drive will be closed to vehicles over the weekend.
The City of Palatka's Azalea Festival takes place over the same weekend with an array of entertainment, activities, shopping and food vendors. Admission and parking are free to the festival.