A steepled church, a village green, and colonial homes enveloped in clouds of pink blossoms are a traditional sign of spring in Fairfield, one of Western Connecticut’s oldest and loveliest towns. Fairfield’s Dogwood Festival has been a tradition for 79 years, celebrating the hundreds of trees that light up the lanes of the town’s historic Greenfield Hill neighborhood. This year’s event takes place Friday May 2 through Sunday, May 4.
But Greenfield Hill is just one of three historic districts in this Fairfield County town celebrating an impressive 375th anniversary this year. So after enjoying one of spring’s most colorful celebrations, visitors can enjoy the celebration taking place in the rest of the town.
The Dogwood Festival
Fairfield’s first dogwood trees were planted back in 1705, when Isaac Bronson, a retired Revolutionary War surgeon-turned-farmer, decided his Greenfield Hills property would be enhanced if he transplanted some of the native wild dogwood trees blooming in the nearby woods. Bronson propagated and so did his trees. By 1895, the blooms were so outstanding that the Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Society took on care of the dogwoods as an official project, adding many new plantings that continue to grow.
In 1935 the Greenfield Hills Congregational Church held the first Dogwood Festival, and like the trees, it has grown prodigiously with time. Besides taking in the beauty of the blossoms, guests can visit tents where some 40 juried New England artisans and crafters will be showing their creations, see an art show, hunt for treasures at a tag sale, enjoy free musical entertainment and pick up prize plants that make perfect Mothers’ Day gifts. Walking tours of the historic lanes will be available and kids will have their own craft tent, bounce house, and face painter, plus cotton candy, and carnival games with prizes. Proceeds from the festival benefit more than 30 local, national and international charities. For details, see www.greenfieldhillschurch.com
The 375th Anniversary
In the second historic district in the center of town, the first sign of something special going on this year will be the fire hydrants, painted in historic garb like the Colonial soldiers who once marched here.
At the Fairfield Museum and History Center, a new hands-on exhibit explores the doings in town over its colorful past. Creating Community: Exploring 375 years of Our Past lets visitors look inside a Native American wigwam, climb into an American Revolution fort, watch a video depicting the Burning of Fairfield by the British in 1779, decipher a spy code, and sit on a 19th century trolley. In six chronologically organized sections, it shows how people worked, lived, and built communities over time by exploring original objects, individual stories, and engaging activities like trying on wardrobes from different periods.
The corner of the Museum block, Beach and Old Post Road, was the center point of the original “four squares” of the town laid out in 1639. Only four original homes survived the British fires, but a pleasant hour can be spent exploring the area’s many beautiful post-Revolutionary homes, historic churches and the town hall, whose central section remains as it was rebuilt in 1790Southport, the picturesque harbor area, is the third historic area. Boats laden with onions from Greenfield Hill farms used to sail out of this harbor before the British did their damage. Now it is home to yachts and country clubs and exclusive residential areas in the hills surrounding the tiny village.
Fairfield is planning many special events in the months ahead to mark its special birthday. See www.fairfield375.com for a complete calendar.
For more information about lodging and other activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com