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Spring is in the air and will soon be evident in the piney woods of East Texas when the backroads and hiking trails fill with Sunday drivers who annually flock to and revel in the splendor of Texas dogwood trees in bloom.

And it's generally a sight for sore eyes, meaning Texans and visitors who have suffered through the winter season (regardless how unseasonably warm it has been) look forward to the blooming dogwoods as the annual signal of warmer days to come. When the dogwoods bloom, spring has arrived!

If you're thinking an early spring road trip is in order and want to maximize your chances of seeing the beautiful trees in full bloom, the annual Dogwoods Trail Celebration in Palestine or the Tyler County Dogwood Festival in Woodville are great places to start.

In Woodville, the festival was expanded to two consecutive weekends in 1968 in order to include events on a western theme. Several customs have evolved, including the crowning of the Dogwood Festival Queen and a historical pageant. Activities have included parades, trail rides, dances, and an arts and crafts show. The 63rd annual festival is set to get underway each weekend  beginning March 18th. The schedule this year includes:

Saturday, March 18th
The Festival of the Arts in historic Heritage Village.

Friday & Saturday, March 24th & 25th
Western Weekend with a 2-day open Rodeo, parade, crowning of the Rodeo Sweethearts and the annual Western Weekend Dance.

Saturday, April 1st
Queen's Weekend plus Tyler County's largest fireworks display.

In Palestine, the Dogwood Trails Celebration is held over the course of three weekends beginning March 17. The first weekend includes the Queen's coronation and parade, as well as seminars, arts & crafts and more. Every weekend showcases the historic homes of Palestine, as well as a Dogwood Excursion aboard the Texas State Railroad, a unique way to view the scenic piney woods.

An old and beautiful legend has it that, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in his gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said: "Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross -- two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints -- brown with rust and stained with red -- and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see this will remember."

Get into the spirit of Dogwood Days and discover the beauty of the "Trail of White."

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