"It is absolutely gorgeous," said Claudia Arington, executive director of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce. "The dogwoods are beautiful and the azaleas are all budding out. If we don't have a bad storm or a strong wind, I think everything will be perfect. People work really hard this week getting things ready."
In addition to showcasing the spring foliage, the festival is, as always, full of activities beginning Thursday morning and running through Sunday evening.
"This is such a wonderful family weekend for everybody," Arington said. "This is really Charleston at its finest - there is something for everyone."
A plant sale, quilt show, walking tour and home and garden tours kick off the weekend Thursday morning. The carnival opens at 5 p.m. that evening with the queen pageant scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
In addition to old favorites like the art show, arts and crafts show and continuing tours, Friday features some fresh attractions.
"The train exhibit is new this year and that is at the Clara Drinkwater Newnam Library," Arington said. This exhibit has toy trains "from as early as the 1940s," she said.
Also Friday, the 25th annual edition of the Colgate Country Showdown will take place beginning at 7 p.m. at the Clara Drinkwater Newnam Auditorium.
The winner will advance to the state finals where they will have a chance to qualify for a regional competition.
Saturday will also have something new.
"Phillip's Exotic Animal Petting Zoo is coming back this year and they're bringing the swine races - that will be fun for everybody," Arington said. "We've never had the pig races before. They'll probably run about every hour."
The petting zoo will be at Rolwing Park from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Sunday.
The parade is also scheduled on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. "U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson is going to be our grand marshal of the parade," Arington said. "It will a big one - it always is. It's really Charleston's largest parade."
Music is also a big part of the festival, according to Arington.
"Our piano praise concert is always a big hit, and they're having two performances Saturday - one at 1:30 p.m. and one at 4 p.m., and then they'll have another performance at 3:30 Sunday afternoon," she said.
As always, the Candlelight Tour begins at dusk Saturday.
"There's entertainment all up and down the streets," Arington said. "During the candlelight walk you can walk the walk, you can drive it or there will be surrey carriage rides until 8 p.m."
During the tour, the Pullen Family will perform at the Mississippi County Historical Society on Main and Commercial Streets will have music by Restored Hope at the Russell Hotel; Max Davison his band Highway 34 at the Homer Oliver home; Christy and Brent Horton's River Rats at the Gerald McClain home; and Brewer Jam at the Greg Luehmann home.
Tunes on Cypress Street will be provided by The Hollar at the Bruce DeField home and by String Circle at the Joe Forrest home.
"These all start at 7 p.m.," Arington said.
Visitors who come hungry have plenty of options.
There will be a fish fry 4-7 p.m. Saturday at the Charleston High School by the Kiwanis Club.
"This is the Kiwanis Club's second year," Arington said. "They did it last year with the help of the James Bayou Cookers."
Arington said there will also plenty of food vendors at Rolwing Park Saturday including barbecue by the Lions Club and Boy Scouts.
One of the highlights for Sunday is the 5k race, she said, "which is really one of the oldest 5k races in Southeast Missouri."
Arington said there are already 48 buses booked for the official guided tour. "There's also lots of buses that just come through that don't schedule through our office," she added. "The festival just grows and grows every year - it's amazing to me how everything just comes together and works out so well."