It is nearly time once again for a popular spring tradition here in Neosho.

As the nicer weather moves into town, the Dogwood Trees are beginning to bloom, readying for their big day, when the Neosho Rotary Club and Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce host the 52nd annual Dogwood Tour on Sunday, April 21.

Roy Shaver, Rotary member, said the tour began in 1961 as a civic project for the Rotary Club.

“Initially we had two tours, one in town and the main one was in the country,” Shaver said. “Over the years bulldozers have got a lot of them, so we focus on in town now, however we’re going to have a tour that goes to the Carver Monument this year.”

The city and rural tours begin at 9 a.m. and go through 5 p.m.
Rotary Club members will set up a tent at the Neosho High School to distribute maps of the tour routes as well as provide refreshments.

While there is not an exact known number of how many dogwoods can be seen along the tours, Shaver said there are “hundreds” in town.

And thanks to the Rotary Club and Teen Challenge of the Four States, there will be an additional 14 trees to be seen on this year’s tour.

“At our chili supper fundraiser last fall at the homecoming game, Rotarians donated eight dogwoods and planted them for winners and this year, Rotary’s donated eight more dogwoods and they’re going to be planted along the route,” Shaver said. “They’ll be planted by Teen Challenge students.”

Shaver said organizers are doing a few things differently this year, including creating and distributing a postcard to attendees. The card features a photo taken by Rotarian Nina Eads and was designed by students in a Crowder College graphic design class.

Shaver said the Hillcrest Church of Christ is also providing tours, coordinated by Rotarian Earl Reynolds.

Shaver said while the event drew people from far away in its early years, attendance has died down a bit, though a large crowd still makes their way through Neosho each year to observe the dogwoods.

“In the old days it was big, people came from Omaha, Des Moines, Jeff City, Wichita,” Shaver said. “The thing that sort of slowed that down was gasoline prices. When we first started it operated for two days. They don’t come as far as they used to but still we have people come from neighboring towns, Joplin, and over in Kansas.”

In addition to the dogwood tour, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery will also be hosting an open house that day.

Shaver said in recent years the two organizations have tried to schedule their events the same day.

The hatchery’s open house runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will include tours through the day, cookies and coffee in the morning, and hot dogs at noon.

The event will also feature live music, along with conservation and naturalist exhibitors, such as reptiles, bee charmers and herbalists.
The Missouri Conservation Department will also be giving away free trees at the open house.

“We like to have them together but the dogwoods don’t always cooperate,” Shaver said. “The fish hatchery has to set their date ahead of time and we can’t set ours until we see what the dogwoods are going to do, but normally it comes in mid-April.”

For more information, contact the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce at 451-1925.