Former mayor speaks out about Dogwood Festival

April 15, 2008 3:48:09 PM PDT
The former mayor, who started the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, is speaking out about the festival being at odds with church leaders who won't be allowed to set up religious booths.

"It's not the intent of the Dogwood Festival to be involved in a controversy like this," former mayor Bill Hurley said.

Hurley is known as the Father of the Dogwood Festival. In 1982, Hurley started the festival after proclaiming Fayetteville the City of Dogwoods.

The former mayor cringed Monday night when he saw City Hall packed with church leaders condemning the festival for not allowing them to set up religious booths.

"If a few churches do come in and they want to promote their church and promote Jesus Christ, well that's fine," Hurley said. "But the problem is all the churches would feel they would have to do the same thing to compete with other churches."

Hurley says the Dogwood Festival was supposed to be a way to help change Fayetteville's negative image as a military town swamped with topless bars.

"It's an event which people can bring their families and come downtown and eat and meet friends, [it's]sort of a reunion," the former mayor said.

However, church leaders see it as an opportunity to spread the gospel.

Last year's festival attracted more than 160,000 people. Church leaders had threatened to boycott this year's event but after last night's meeting, they've softened their tone.

"We'll have to reevaluate," Michael Fletcher of the Manna Church said. "I'm hoping that wiser minds will prevail and the board will sit down and decide that next year they're going to frame a different policy."

The Dogwood Festival will go on without church and political booths. Organizers hope the community continues to support what's become one of the city's premiere events.


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