By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

PALESTINE – The second weekend of the 79th Annual Dogwood Trails Celebration will kick off on Friday, March 31 in Palestine with a variety of activities, including the opening night of the Palestine Community Theatre’s “Bingo!” The Winning Musical,” a weekend event at Ivy Payne Wildlife Refuge near Elkhart, a cooking class, tours, train excursions and more.

The first weekend of the Dogwood Trails Celebration (March 24-26) included the Dogwood Trails Parade, a downtown festival, the Palestine Dulcimer & Old Music Festival at the Museum for East Texas Culture, the Cars of Palestine’s annual car show, among other events.

The Palestine Community Theatre (PCT) will finish out their 2016-2017 season during the last two weekends of Dogwood Trails with its production of “Bingo! The Winning Musical,” directed by PCT veteran Michael Cook.

Performances will be held Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2 and on the last Dogwood Trails Celebration weekend, Friday, April 7 through Sunday, April 9. Curtain calls will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the historic Texas Theater, located at 213 W. Crawford St. in downtown Palestine. A complimentary wine and cheese reception will be held on opening night at 6:30 p.m. this Friday in the theater’s lobby.

In “Bingo! The Winning Musical,” the die-hard bingo fans and friends will stop at nothing, including braving one of the worst storms in more than 15 years, to play bingo and celebrate the birthday of the game’s creator. Meanwhile, “love looms between the gentleman bingo caller, Sam, and Honey; Patsy struggles to keep her myriad of good-luck talismans in play; and Vern takes on a bingo student for the first time in years. But . . . who is this student? She looks so familiar to everyone. Is she truly there due to the storm, or does she have ulterior motives?” a PCT press release said.

To add to the fun and mystery, the audience will play a few games of bingo along with the cast and prizes will be given to the winners.

Tickets for all performances are $15 for adults and $10 for students ages 4 to 18 and may be purchased online at http://www.thetexastheater.com/ticket-info.html or at the local ticket vendors: Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, Palestine Visitor Center, Blake Furniture and Discount Pools.

Also scheduled to start on Friday are free nature tours of the Ivy Payne Wildlife Refuge, located at the end of County Road 134 near Elkhart. Tours will be given of the 480 acres of hills and bottomlands of Parker Creek. The tours are scheduled at 4 p.m. on Friday, at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and starting at 9 a.m. on Sunday. A covered pavilion with bathrooms and kitchen are available.

For more information about the Ivy Payne Wildlife Refuge tours, contact Earl Matthew at 361-790-3074 or visit www.texaslandconservancy.org.

The Texas State Railroad will continue to offer roundtrip Piney Woods Excursions across the East Texas countryside on one of its historic steam engine, departing from the Rusk Depot.

Local chefs Christina Gardner and Simon Webster will be offering the third annual cooking class “Cooking Under the Dogwoods” at Sabor a Pasion at noon Saturday, April 1. The class will feature easy and “beautiful” classic British recipes to impress your guests on Easter Sunday. For reservations, call 903-729-9500 or visit www.saborapasion.com.

​North Jackson Baptist Church, located at 1213 N. Jackson St. in Palestine, will host the annual Dogwood Trails Gospel Music Festival from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 1. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

A Farm & Flower Market will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 1 at the Palestine Farmers Market pavilion at 815 W. Spring St. in Palestine. The market will include heirloom seedlings, roses, dogwood saplings, local honey, eggs, produce, preserves and more.

Guided tours also will be offered of the historic downtown treasure, the Redlands Building. A historic tour will be held at 11 a.m. while an architectural tour will kick off at 2 p.m. Each tour is approximately 30 minutes long. Light refreshments will be provided.