Local News

Raleigh sets festival to celebrate past, future of Dix property

Posted May 26, 2016 11:08 a.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2016 6:58 p.m. EDT

— The anniversary of Raleigh's purchase of the Dorothea Dix property will be marked with a free festival in July and a push to get more people involved in the planning of the site's future, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Thursday.

The Destination Dix festival is set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 23 on the open lawn of the 308-acre site, which Raleigh leaders plan to convert into a major regional park south of downtown.

Details are still being finalized, but McFarlane said Raleigh bluegrass band Chatham County Line and Durham folk-pop group Bombadil will be the featured performers on the two music stages.

The festival, which is expected to cost $100,000, also will feature a Ferris wheel, a water play area, art, games and food from local vendors, the mayor said. People also are free to pack a picnic for the event, she said.

Raleigh leaders want people attending the festival to see not only the history of the property – it used to be home to a state psychiatric hospital and still houses offices of the state Department of Health and Human Services – but also be able to "weigh in on the future plans" for the park.

"We want people to come here and see it. There are so many in Raleigh and the surrounding areas that have never seen what a jewel this is," McFarlane said, urging people to "be as creative and imaginative as you can as we begin to consider all of the park possibilities."

Bill McNeal, a former Wake County school superintendent who now is a member of the Dix Park Conservancy, a booster group that is helping the city with planning and funding the site's transition into a park, said the public will ultimately determine what the area will look like.

"This isn't for the people today. It's for their children and their children and beyond," McNeal said.

Conservancy Chairman Jim Goodmon, the president and chief executive of WRAL News parent Capitol Broadcasting Co., said the transformation will take several years.

"I think we're going to have a great destination park," Goodmon said. "Part of the fun is getting everybody together to figure out what that is."

No parking will be available at the Dix site for the festival. The city will offer free parking in downtown garages and run free shuttles to the festival from both downtown and North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus.