Sunday, March 25, 2007

And I'm done.

It's terrible to say this but I'm sitting at home on my couch right now thinking back on the past 10 days and all I've done, and the whole time I can't get the sing-song tune of "Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead" out of my head.

Don't get me wrong - I have thoroughly enjoyed this year's Cherry Blossom Festival and it's still one of my favorite things about living in Macon. I relish this time of year when everything is blooming and you can actually find crowds of people hanging out downtown in the middle of the week. It almost makes it feel like we live in a bigger city than we really do. As soon as the festival is over, you'll be hard-pressed to find crowds downtown unless it's First Friday or there's some other big event going on. It's sad, but that's the reality of our town.

Anyway, as much as I enjoy the festival and all of the fun it brings with it, I am so tired and so glad that it is over. I am ready to get back to my regular schedule, and frankly, I'll be just fine if I don't see any men in pink for a little while.

Looking back on the festival as whole, I feel like this year's was a success. I do think the middle section kind of dragged a little, and the second weekend didn't seem nearly as busy as the first weekend in my opinion, but on the whole it was still enjoyable. The blossoms did finally come out by the end of the festival, and here's hoping that maybe they won't be as finicky next year.

I do want to take a minute to offer a special thanks to all the people who participated and helped make this blog what it was, especially those who played along and let me capture them on video.

And that's it for this year's Cherry Blossom Festival. I'll spare you the horrible poetry that marked the end of last year's cherry blogging and just say good bye.

Let the countdown for next year's festival begin!

SLIDESHOW | It felt like the Fourth of July

It felt just like the Fourth of July tonight at the Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Finale. There were families picnicking and chefs were grilling up burgers and hot dogs. Kids were playing football and Frisbee, and the United States Navy band Freedom was singing "Proud to be an American (God Bless the USA)." It was even so hot throughout the afternoon and early evening, it felt a little like the middle of summer. And, let's not forget the fireworks.

The afternoon started out a little slow. There weren't many families gathered yet about 5 p.m., but there were some who had already laid out their picnic feasts fit for kings under the shade of the cherry trees. A rock wall and inflatable toys set up on the lawn proved popular among the children, as well as a hot-air balloon. I got the chance to float up about 35 feet over Wesleyan's lawn in the hot-air balloon, which was tethered to several vehicle so that it couldn't float any higher up. Only three individuals could ride with the pilot at a time, and we each had to climb in and out of the balloon just as someone else was getting in or out so that the balloon's weight wouldn't change too drastically and start to float off the ground while people were trying to board it.

It was so hot and the crowd was so thin that I decided to leave for a while and come back later for the fireworks. By the time I got back, the crowd had really taken over the lawn and kids were playing Frisbee and football all over the place. The Navy band, Freedom, was pretty good and it was fun to see the lead singer get a little mobbed by kids wanting autographs and pictures after the band left the stage.

I was a little worried the fireworks might get delayed because the sun had not quite yet tucked itself into bed, but that fear was quickly cast aside when they started counting down to the fireworks a little before 8:15. Tonight's fireworks put Saturday night's display to shame. They were set off right from the Wesleyan lawn, which meant they were close to the crowd and not blocked from view by any neighboring trees. The proximity to the crowd also made them seem so much bigger and breath-taking. Not to mention the timing of tonight's fireworks was much better coordinated and the start-up was just as exciting as the finale. They were definitely worth driving out to Wesleyan to see.


SLIDESHOW | Children add special touch to festival

There aren't nearly as many people downtown at the Mulberry Street Festival this afternoon. I'm betting it has something to do with the fact that it's the last day of the festival and there's not a bunch of other events planned for downtown this afternoon and evening other than the Children's Parade. That and people may be getting ready to head out to Wesleyan College for the grand finale.

UPDATE 4 P.M.: The Cherry Blossom Festival Children's Parade went off without a glitch. The parade lasted about 10 minutes (MUCH shorter than last weekend's parade), with children from different clubs and organizations around town walking from MLK Boulevard all the way down to the Cherry Blossom Festival Headquarters Office. I thought the length of the parade was just right this weekend, but I think adding a cute little children's concert band or choir to the parade's lineup would have brought a special touch to the event. I was dismayed by the crowd's size, but it is hot outside, and I've never been to the Children's Parade before so I can't say if that's what the regular turnout is like.

On another note, I finally got my Greek gyro! YUM!


Saturday, March 24, 2007

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Fireworks, Little Big Town draw people to downtown

There were SO many people downtown tonight. I don't know when the last time was that I saw that many people in downtown Macon at one time. If people weren't over on Cherry Street for the 2007 Cherry Blossom Festival Street Party, they were over on Coleman Hill for Fireworks Over Macon.

The street party started out slow this evening, with the bigger crowds mostly congregating on the lawn of the Georgia Sports Museum in front of the WDEN stage where Little Big Town would play later in the evening. Though the crowd was smaller at the B95.1 stage down at Third and Cherry streets, it was a little more active with a few people actually dancing to the music. By the end of the evening, crowds at both stages had grown rather large and were huddled close to the bands. There seemed to be steady business at the clubs and restaurants along Cherry Street in between the stages, though the foot traffic never got as congested there as it did at either end.

I was really surprised to see such a large variety of ages among the crowd, but as happy as that made me, I was even more dismayed by the complete racial divide along the street. It is Macon, so what did I expect? Down at the WDEN stage, the crowd was mostly white. And down at the B95.1 stage, the crowd was mostly black. I just wonder if anyone in the two separate crowds knew that the music was just as good at either end.

I also wonder if anyone on Cherry Street was able to see the fireworks when they went off. (Were you on Cherry Street? Did you see the fireworks? Please comment.) I have to say that even for Macon, the fireworks display was pretty pitiful. First off, most of the crowd had gathered in the middle of Coleman Hill to listen to the Middle Georgia Concert Band play before and along with the fireworks. The only problem with this was that when the fireworks started it turned out there was this giant tree blocking a large portion of the view. Who wants to have to get up from their picnic on the lawn to move to a better spot in the middle of the fireworks display? No one. Had the fireworks not been quite so low, that might not have been a problem.

But that didn't matter anyway because they didn't last very long at all. The whole thing would have been at least a little more exciting had the fireworks been timed a little better. They were set off too far apart time-wise in my opinion so that they never really seemed to blend in with each other the way great fireworks displays do. And then after the whole show was done and people started to get up and walk off, there were a couple of random sparks intermittently fired into the air. What gives fireworks people? Were you trying to taunt us? "Hey, no, don't get back on your big bus yet, we're not done. Oh wait, yes we are." I hope Sunday night's display is much better.




SLIDESHOW | Weekend starts with plenty of sunshine

Well, I am so glad I got pink pancakes last weekend or I would have been thoroughly disappointed this morning! I strolled over to Central City Park about 10 this morning to get my second dose of those heavenly hot cakes and the line was trailing all the way out past the entrance to the park toward the parking lot. (That's the line in this top photo, but you can't even see how far it goes on.) I knew we might encounter a line at 10 a.m. since it was somewhat later and the weather was great, but I have NEVER seen the line that long before! One person we knew in line was not even at the halfway point and he said he had been waiting for 25 minutes!

Since the pancake breakfast only runs until 10:30 and we were really hungry, we decided to just walk back over to Third Street Park to the International Food Fair to get some breakfast since it started at 10. By the time we got there craving some Greek gyros, though, they told us it would be another 20-25 minutes before they had food ready. It was just not our morning food-wise. We wound up eating so-so chicken fingers and corndogs. Not very international, I know.

Variety-wise, the food fair was still somewhat of a disappointment this year. If you're going to call it international, then there should at least be a little more variety. Really, they just ought to call it a food fair or bill it as part of the Mulberry Street Festival and stop taunting people with visions of multicultural cuisine dancing in their heads. The selection didn't expand much beyond Greek, Mexican and Jamaican. There was also a rib-eye place and the usual brats stand, but those don't count as international in my book.

As for the Mulberry Street Festival, it was drawing a huge crowd as usual. The weather, a little on the hot side, was definitely helping to get things going. Here's a tip, though, if you're going to head out there: You may want to wait until later in the afternoon so that maybe some of the buildings will be casting a shadow over Mulberry Street to make the sun a little more bearable. I was lucky and didn't come back home with a sunburn, but it was a close call.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Boot Scootin' the night away

Photographer Beau Cabell told me tonight that he thought he'd seen everything when grown men started wearing bright pink coats about two decades ago, but that was until he saw them wearing pink cowboy hats tonight at the Boot Scootin' Boogie and Casino Night event at City Auditorium. And there were plenty of them wearing those pretty little light pink hats to be sure.

The event featured live music from the band Wichita, which stuck mostly to a country format but mixed in a little old rock like the Eagles to give the evening more variety. With the purchase of $35 tickets, guests received one raffle ticket and a $500 voucher to use to play in the "casino" to win more tickets. There was a mix of games that included such guilty pleasures as black jack, roulette and craps. After 11 p.m., guests were to "cash in" their chips to see if they had won enough for more raffle tickets. Among the prizes to be raffled off: a big screen TV and a natural gas grill. Not too shabby if you ask me.

SLIDESHOW | Founders celebrated on final day of Third Street Park festivities

Well, I think it's safe to say Third Street Park was THE place to be at lunchtime this week. The crowds never seemed to dwindle, even today when the sun almost seemed a little too hot to be out and about. Just almost, though. Had the cherry trees been in full bloom, they would have provided a little more shade and comfort.

Friday was Founders Day in the park, giving us the chance to celebrate William Fickling Sr. and festival founder Carolyn Crayton, and the chance to partake of some yummy birthday cake. Former Mercer University President Kirby Godsey said a few words about Crayton, and the crowd got to hear the story of how Fickling became enamored with the Yoshino cherry tree. Even Mark Ballard the Artist showed up decked out in a pink coat to help celebrate the founders of all things cherry blossom in Macon.

The birthday cake never seemed to draw a huge line, but crowds swarmed around the table of food from Applebees and the lines for cherry ice cream never seemed to dwindle, with the one closer to Mulberry Street looping back toward the park it was so long.

It's been a fun eight days and the final day of festivities in Third Street Park makes me kind of sad. It means that even though we have two jam-packed days left, the festival is about to come to another close and we have to wait until next year to celebrate it all over again.


A cherry treat or two

As you're preparing for this fun-filled weekend coming up, you might have started thinking about packing a picnic for the festival's grand finale at Wesleyan on Sunday evening. Here's a few specialties from to add to your basket just for the occasion.

Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Cherry Rum Balls

Cherry Blossom Fudge

Cherry Enchiladas

Chicken-Cherry Pie (seriously - that's what it's called)

And here's a few drink selections too, but maybe not for a picnic ...

Cherry Fizz

Cherry Bomb

Cherry Limeade

John's Tasty German Cherry Beer

Sangria by the Pros

Pineapple Cake Martini

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've been outed!

UPDATE: Well, there was a post all about me but it's gone now, so it's not your browser playing tricks on you and I'm not crazy!

UPDATE 2: The link works again! Yay! May the book deals commence!

SLIDESHOW | It's fashionable to lunch

Thursday's Cherry Blossom Fashion Show and Luncheon at the Goodwill Conference Center was a fashionably good time. I would estimate there were probably about 300 to 400 people there - mostly women, of course - as there were probably about 30 or 40 tables of 10 each. There may have been even more than that. I certainly didn't realize the event, which has been a festival staple from the beginning, was that big of a deal so I was surprised by the turnout.

Host Mark Ballard (The Artist) was a hoot and had the ladies laughing throughout the lunch, and he even had them scrambling from their tables when he tossed a John Deere baseball cap he was asked to wear when he rode into the fashion show on a John Deere lawn mower out into the crowd. Yes, those "mature" ladies jumped from their seats to try to catch that hat. Ballard said before the show that he wasn't at all nervous about emceeing, he was just nervous about riding out into the crowd on a tractor.

The tables were beautifully set before the crowd was even allowed into the conference center. They were decked with bowls of what looked like a pink goulash labeled Vichyssoise. It tasted much better than it looked, and was really some sort of potato and onion mix. The pecan-crusted chicken and risotto that followed were excellent and moist as well, and the dessert was just out of this world. It was a chocolate pot de creme with raspberry coulis garnishment. Heavenly. Edgar's Bistro catered the event.

The piece de resistance at the table, though, would have to be the Menage a Trois bottles of wine made by the winery Folie a Deux. The company-printed labels invited drinkers to "Discover the excitement of our Menage a Trois." It went right along with the theme of the afternoon. During his invocation, which seemed to go on and on by the way, the Rev. Ronald Terry spoke of the "fragrance of love" and how "the Cherry Blossom Festival says let's get together." Then, during the fashion show one of the male models bent down into the crowd and kissed a guest. Ballard even joined in, joking that it was "getting warm up here" and that someone had a taken a picture of him backstage in his underwear.

While we all stuffed ourselves silly, the models showed off three different sets of clothes, as did host Ballard. They sported a casual look first, then moved to business and lunch attire, and finished off the show with formal wear. Fashions were courtesy of Macon Mall.

All in all, I thought it was a great event. I wouldn't wear all of the clothes modeled, but I did see some cute pieces. And, once again, that food - mmmm!


VIDEO | Oh greasy festival food, you had me at hello

Mmmmm. The smells of festival food have been making my mouth water all week long. Those boiled peanuts were haunting me every time I visited Central City Park, but I had vowed to hold out on fair-like food until mid-week when I could sit down and write a post about it. Well, I finally got my boiled peanuts. And some funnel cake. And some lemonade. And, well I had to try those Australian baked potatoes too - for the blog, of course. They were all good. They were all satisfying. But they left me with a hunger. A hunger to know what other people were craving when it comes to festival food. Oh, all right, I'll spare you any more cheesiness. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT WHAT FOODS MAKE PEOPLE'S MOUTHS WATER.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SLIDESHOW | Where was everyone?

I got to Central City Park about 7:30 tonight for Latino night and there was hardly anyone there. Was there some other big shindig going on in town that I wasn't aware of? I didn't think so, but who knows. The band, Peralta, wasn't bad and they did have a few people in the crowd dancing to the beat. Even a few workers sitting all lonely-like in their booths were swaying a little to the beat.

I guess Ben Jones' pink sombrero didn't really make people want to jump in their cars and head down to park. Or maybe it's just that it's the middle of the week and everyone is tired like me and resting up to prepare for Saturday. Whatever the reason for the small crowd, I hope the turnout is much better this weekend for the street party. Rest now people - come Saturday we've got some partying to do!


SLIDESHOW | Paintings, Posies and Punch just peachy ... er, pinky

The ladies with the Federated Garden Clubs of Macon have been actively involved with the Cherry Blossom Festival since its beginnings 25 years ago. Chairman Bobbie Appling said the first exhibits coordinated with the festival mostly showcased flowers, but after a number of years the clubs began adding different collections to the festivities. This year's exhibit, Paintings, Posies and Punch, features artwork by Ann Marshall Bailey, Betty Perryman Treadwell, Angela Tomey and Mary Williams, as well as collections by the members of the clubs. Those collections include everything from antique dolls, such as this three-faced baby at right, and antique tools to linens and artwork.

The house, listed on the National Registry for Historic Homes, is absolutely gorgeous and is often rented out for weddings and receptions. It's worth a tour sometime if you have the free time, even if it's not during the festival. For the exhibit, each of the rooms in the home was divvied up among the garden clubs, and club members were tasked with decorating the rooms along with the exhibit's theme.

All of the art is for sale except for the works by Ann Marshall Bailey, who can be commissioned to paint portraits. One of the featured pieces of the Paintings, Posies and Punch exhibit is Bailey's portrait of Ryan Seacrest, seen at right, which she was commissioned to paint by the celebrity's mother. Appling said that since that commission, Bailey has decided to start a series of portraits featuring Atlanta celebrities. She did a good job with Ryan Seacrest, but I'm kind of intrigued to see what she will come up with if she sits down to paint portraits of Young Jeezy or OutKast.

Paintings, Posies and Punch will continue through Thursday. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but will stay open longer to accommodate visitors. The group estimates that last year they had about 400 visitors during the festival, and Appling said the crowd kept the home open until 7 p.m. Tuesday. The cost is $3, which goes toward the upkeep of the house. The Federated Garden Clubs of Macon is located at 730 College St.


Schedule change

Just a head's up that there's been a change in the Cherry Blossom Festival schedule:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Cherry Blossom Festival will be unable to present the United States Air Force Band of the Reserve Full Spectrum Jazz Ensemble as listed in our schedule for Thursday evening. We are pleased to announce that the Rutland High School Pride of the Hurricanes Band will perform a free concert in this time slot at Wesleyan College in Porter Auditorium.

VIDEO | Dogs take over Central City Park

There was so much going on this past weekend in Central City Park that I didn't have a chance to process video of the dogs at the Dixie Disc Dog Championships right away. Because I think the dogs are so much fun I decided to save this video as a special mid-week treat just so I could watch it all over again several days later. I hope you enjoy watching the dogs as much as I did! CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE DOGS PERFORMING AT CENTRAL CITY PARK THIS PAST WEEKEND.

VIDEO | Community leaders discuss their favorite Cherry Blossom events

What's your favorite Cherry Blossom event? I've mentioned before that I think my favorite event may be the Kaleidoscope of Cultures, but I'd say the Dixie Disc Dog Championships aren't far behind. Over the past couple of days, I've gotten the chance to ask several elected officials what their favorite events are during the festival. Now, I want to know what your favorite events are.


SLIDESHOW | Pink poodle to dye for

I've noticed at Cherry Blossom events this year that Lacie the pink poodle, seen at right, is always a crowd favorite. And it's not just the young who are enamored with Lacie and her brightly colored hair - she has quite a following among all generations. I think she might even be more of a Cherry Blossom celebrity than founder Carolyn Crayton herself.

I've even had a faithful reader ask the question, "Just how do they get that poodle pink?" Well, I happened to find the answer to that question in The Telegraph's archives. At the end of this post, you'll find a story written by former Telegraph staff writer Karen Shugart that was printed on March 18, 2005.

Not everyone thinks pink poodles are cute, but I happen to think that Lacie is adorable. And she seems to handle the fame as though it is nothing at all. It's not every animal that could handle her duties as a pink princess. Why, just Sunday, there was this white- and brown-spotted horse in the parade that had been dyed a hideous shade of neon pink. That poor animal looked more like a horrible blend of Pepto-Bismol and diarrhea.

Also, Lacie isn't the only pink poodle in town. I guess she started a trend because pink poodles are popping up everywhere from store fronts to gift shops. Just take a look for yourself. CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTOS OF PINK POODLES AROUND MACON.

---- story begins here


Not many dogs have their own 1975 pink Cadillac Eldorado.

Not many dogs sport bright pink nails encrusted with nail art.

But then, not many dogs spend four and one-half hours getting their hair dyed.

Not many dogs are like Lacie, the Cherry Blossom Festival's unofficial pink poodle.

And that's not just any pink. Bright pink. As in the Manic Panic shade of hot pink, the shade punk rockers and teenagers use.

"When you do pink, you really get noticed. You really get noticed," says Lacie's owner, groomer Paul Williams of Macon.

The pink poodle has been a festival tradition for years, joining the ranks of other pastel attention-grabbers: pink pancakes, pink grits, pink jackets.

But it's Lacie - now in her second year as the pink poodle - that might draw the most year-round attention from children and senior citizens.

Her caretakers, Paul and Alice Williams, keep the canine in pink nearly every day of the year.

And that's a lot of hair dye.

Paul Williams says it takes several hours and between six and 10 bottles of dye to get Lacie's hair the deep color.

"Say, 'I'm worse than any old lady going to the hairdresser,' '' Paul Williams says to Lacie as he leans down to rub her near her rhinestone-encrusted black collar.

Lacie started doing the Cherry Blossom Festival circuit about two years ago. Before that, the Williams' late poodle Casper held the role, and before that another family's dog named Teddi was known to prance around with pink fur.

Her "responsibilities" take her to ribbon cuttings, Central City Park events - sometimes even fashion shows.

But as possibly Macon's most well-known dog, she makes appearances throughout the year, visiting nursing homes, vacation Bible schools and elementary schools.

When your hair is pink, you're in demand. And you have to keep up appearances.

"She's usually dressed to the nines, because she does get attention wherever we go," Paul Williams says. "If she's not pink, people are disappointed."

Sometimes those appearances can be quite impromptu, such as when motorists lean out their windows and urge the pink Cadillac chauffeuring the pink Lacie to pull over.

"People have actually chased us down," Paul Williams says. "She's quite a crowd pleaser."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The opportunity that got away

Oh! I am so slow! I sat right beside the mayor last night at the Children's Concert (well, for about 15 minutes anyway) and I didn't even think about asking him about his shadow until this morning. I could have quickly asked him "Hey, who is that man that's been following you all over town?" But did the thought enter my mind? Nope. Not at all.

Actually, to be honest, all I was thinking was geez, the mayor sure is tall. Yes, I've seen him out and about around town, and yes, I already knew he was a fairly tall man. But there's something about having him sit down right next to you and kind of towering over you while his legs seem to stretch on for miles to make you just kind of go whoa. Anyway, he didn't stay for long and I'd like to think that it wasn't a pressing engagement that made him leave early, but that it made him nervous sitting so close to me being that he knows I work for the paper and all. That and the fact that I'm hot. Pink that is. :) (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT ME ON WMCC NEWS.)

Thanks for the shout out! It's definitely helped re-energize me from the mid-Cherry Blossom slump I was starting to feel. It's only Day 5 of the festival and there are five more days to go so I can't get tired yet. It's hard to stay motivated in the middle of the week though when highlights of the festival mostly include organ concerts and more free cherry ice cream. I've already done the ice cream thing, though, and truthfully I'm not a huge fan of cherry-flavored ice cream so while some people could do that all week, I certainly won't. And I've seen the tigers already, one of the few exciting daily activities. I just don't know about these organ concerts. Maybe. There's always Posies and Punch.

Whatever I choose to do, I'll keep you posted. Also, I've still got plenty of things I'm working on for the middle of the week that have nothing to do with organ concerts. Just stay tuned.

Monday, March 19, 2007

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious

I'm not big on school concerts; never have been. When I was growing up, I thought of school concerts as 30-60 minutes of sheer pain and boredom, and dreaded going to them - especially my brother's concerts. Not that he was bad, or that the band was bad. In my opinion, it just always seemed like the same tired old music. Even if it was performed perfectly note for note, I would rather have been at home than sitting in the school cafeteria listening to the band. That's just the way it was. And it's easy to imagine (not having any kids of my own) that the reason people go to school concerts is because they are parents and they have to, not because they really want to.

With all that said, one might be surprised to hear that I went willingly to the Cherry Blossom Children's Concert. Honestly, I've wanted to go the Children's Concert for the past two Cherry Blossom Festivals, but I haven't been able to make it because of work. Yeah, I know - me actually wanting to go to a children's concert sounds a little odd. The photos and stories we've run in the paper in the past have always made the kids look so cute and made the event sound like so much fun. Plus it's hard not to think little kids are cute and funny when they're singing about "icky romance," like they did tonight.

Tonight's concert was actually even better than I thought it would be.

Before the evening started, the mayor read a proclamation naming March 2007 Music in Our Schools Month, and Bibb Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop told a funny story about his own experiences trying to play an instrument when he was younger - turns out he was tone deaf.

The theme of the night was "Lights! Camera! Action!" and about 450 children from Bibb's public schools performed popular music and dance pieces from the movies. Pieces included the themes from "Mission: Impossible," "Superman" and "Star Wars," as well good old classics "What a Wonderful World" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Also on tap were children's classics like "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious" and "Candyman," which was my favorite performance of the evening by the way. This teeny little kid dressed in a suit went "dancing" through a group of girls much older and taller than himself. He was too funny for words.

All in all, what made the concert good in my opinion was the variety of performances. It wasn't just a band - it was a children's choir, it was dancers, it was soloists. And the music choices made the whole thing even better because it was easy to tell the kids were having fun. And it was obvious that they had worked hard to prepare for the night. It made it kind of sad that the auditorium wasn't jam-packed. Don't get me wrong - it was crowded, but not as crowded as it could have been.

Anyway, here's hoping if I ever have kids their concerts are as fun and entertaining as the one I went to tonight.



VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Cherry ice cream on my mind

Third Street Park opened with a crowd this morning. I don't know if it was the weather or maybe the thought of yummy free cherry ice cream, but it was so packed in Third Street Park that the lines at both ice cream booths never seemed to get any shorter. Festival President and CEO Wright Tilley mentioned during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that Dairyland served 20,000 cones of ice cream over the five days Third Street Park was open last year. 20,000!

After the officials pretended to cut the ribbon (so as to not have to cut the ribbon itself), the Mount de Sales choir entertained the crowd with songs like "Going to the Chapel" and "I've Got You Under My Skin." But if memory serves me correctly, "Going to the Chapel" was also sung at last year's opening. Hmph. How odd. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Also, I'm just a little curious about something. Does anyone know who this man in the back is behind Charlie Bishop?

Perhaps I should know because I work at the paper, but I have no idea who he is. He followed the mayor's car in the parade yesterday and handed out candy from the mayor's pocket to select individuals, and today he was waiting behind the stage. It's like the mayor's got his own little Secret Service man. I'm quite entertained.



UPDATE! (March 20, 2007) I've been told that the mayor's shadow is his bodyguard Sgt. Kenneth Kennebrew with the Macon Police Department. Who knew the mayor of Macon needed a bodyguard?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | It's a standing ovation for Cherry Blossom Kaleidoscope of Cultures

Wow! I think I found my new favorite Cherry Blossom event! The Kaleidoscope of Cultures at the Grand Opera House tonight was absolutely spectacular. There were performers representing Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom, Uganda and the United States.


I think my favorite of the performances was the one by the Japanese drummers. They were funny and extremely talented. Not only were they incredibly rhythmically in sync with each other, but they knew how to play to the crowd. At one point, one of the drummers came out dressed as a hibachi chef and joked with the crowd about placing an order. Then he moved back to the table that was brought out and joined in with the drum beat with his cooking utensils.

Just watching all of the drummers made me wonder how much they have to practice in the day to actually be able to keep in sync like they did. And judging by the muscle tone in their arms, it must be an incredible workout for them, too, every time they play. (Hmmm. Not a bad idea for one of those workout videos they market on TV late at night.) They received a standing ovation when they were done with their performance.

Also receiving a standing ovation was Mercer University senior Krystal Morris, who represented the United States at the end of the program with the songs "At Last" and "Amazing Grace."

From the zitherist (as fun to say as it is to watch) to the Ugandan dance piece, I thought everyone did a great job. I know the parade was filmed live by GPTV this afternoon, but I think next year the the Kaleidoscope of Cultures should be added to that list. Evidence for that is found in the audience - I heard of at least one person trying to find out where she could purchase a copy of the evening's performances.

If you think I'm over-exaggerating with my praise, just watch for yourself.



VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Cherry Blossom Parade draws large crowd

Sunday's Cherry Blossom Parade, celebrating the festival's 25th anniversary, drew a large crowd to downtown. I don't think I've ever seen so many people at the parade or as many entries. In fact, there were so many that the parade lasted nearly two hours. The parade's length may have had a little something to do with the fact that it aired on GPTV this year. Parade participants, particularly the bands, were stopping at the corner of Cherry and Third streets to perform for the TV crews, and that's likely what made it seem longer. It also meant that parade-watchers on Mulberry Street got stuck with intermittent bursts of no floats or bands at all, which was somewhat of a downside because it made it hard to judge when the parade was actually over. Overall, though, I think the parade was a huge success and the weather couldn't have been better. There could have been candy, though. Nobody threw any candy.



VIDEO | Cherry Blossom tours of the town

Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore will be giving daily tours around town again this year. The tours are similar to the Cherry Blossom Riding Tours that depart from Central City Park and wind their way through Macon's neighborhoods, giving visitors the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the city's beauty when the trees are in bloom. Grisamore has been the guide to a few of the Riding Tours, but prefers playing guide to out-of-town groups who come in with their own bus. That's what he'll be doing this week. In fact, this week he'll be guiding a tour for his very first tour guests again - a group from Fort Payne, Ala. They loved him so much, they're coming back to Macon this year, and they wanted him to be their guide again. Talking with him, I found he's had some great experiences on the tours and has a lot of information about the trees and Macon's history to share.


If you're interested in taking one of the daily Cherry Blossom Riding Tours, they're going on through Saturday. They depart from Central City Park at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. and they cost $10 per person. Riders should show up at least 15 minutes before the tours depart.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Okay, I'll admit it. I'm weak. I went to the Cherry Blossom Balloon Fest and Airshow at the Macon Downtown Airport this evening with every intention of staying out there through the twilight show and balloon glow. I really did. But it was extremely windy, and extremely cold. Well, maybe it wasn't freezing, but it sure felt like it. As the sun began to sink a little lower and the air show programming drew to a temporary halt, I decided I couldn't stick it out another hour or so until it got dark to watch the balloon glow. And I'm not the only one who ditched out early. There was barely a crowd there when I left about 7 p.m. - I think the weather got to a lot of people. I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not sticking it out because this would have been my first balloon glow, but my wind-burned face thanks me for not staying any longer than I did. I guess there's always next year.



VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | His secret: A Philly cheesesteak

Chicken wings were on the menu this evening at the Hooters Cherry Blossom Wing Fling wing-eating contest at the Macon Downtown Airport. The wing-eating contest was one of several events to take place at the Cherry Blossom Balloon Fest and Air Show. About 10 contestants were pulled from the crowd after successfully shouting "Hooters makes me happy" as loud as they could. The guys - and one woman - had five minutes to eat as many wings as they could. Some of them seemed to take it all in stride, but there were a couple who looked like they might be sick at any moment. Thank goodness that didn't happen - at least not in public anyway. The winner, a man named Randy, who is pictured here, ate 33 wings in five minutes. When Frank Malloy asked Randy what his secret was, he responded that he had prepared by eating a Philly cheesesteak sandwich not long before the contest!



SLIDESHOW | A Cherrydazzling afternoon in the park

There was a ton going on in Central City Park on Saturday afternoon and the weather seemed more than willing to cooperate. The sun warmed up a little and the wind wasn't quite as gusty, which made just hanging out and relaxing in the park lots of fun. A few of the activities on the agenda for the afternoon: the Kids Cherrydazzle, a pet fashion show, a dance-dance revolution tournament and the Dixie Disc Dog Championships. CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTOS FROM SATURDAY IN CENTRAL CITY PARK.

It's a gala-glamorous event

Click here to watch Liz Fabian's video of the festival's royalty being introduced at the Cherry Blossom Gala on Friday night.

SLIDESHOW/VIDEO | And they're off!

I have to say Macon, I was quite disappointed at this year's turnout of participants in the Cherry Blossom Bed Race. There were a ton of entries in last year's race, but this year only five teams came out to participate. There were supposed to be six teams, but the fire department backed out at the last minute. The race was still fun, and it still drew a good crowd to Third Street, though I don't think it was as big as last year's but that may have something to do with the windy weather.

Reigning champions Walthall Oil Co. won the race again this year, and even though I love their designs, someone needs to get out there and give them a run for their money. The team's time of 18.5 seconds was about 5 seconds faster than any other team's times. Their bed looks light, and actually looks nothing like a bed, but crew chief Tim Still, vice president of Walthall Oil, and Frank Walthall, president of the company, both said it was actually a bed - it was made from a hospital gurney to be more exact.


Here's a picture of the team below.

Team runners were Matt and Josh Still, Tim Still's sons who participate with him each year, Troy Climber and Chad Skinner. And they were smart, too - they put a woman, Amanda Brown, behind the wheel to guide them on a smooth path. Much smoother than the bed that was driven by the Middle Georgia Apartment Association, which wound it's way all over Cherry Street. Straight lines are so over-rated anyway! This is the Middle Georgia Apartment Association's bed below. Their time was 24.2 seconds, but they also won the Judge's Choice award.


They might have been really wobbly but they did make the race look like fun. And both Tim Still and Frank Walthall agreed that it's a lot of fun, and not necessarily about the winning - though it is good to win. Walthall said working on this event is a great way to bring the retail department and the wholesale people of their company together. He and Still both said they wished more Macon industries and companies would come and compete against them.

The company has been competing in the race for about 12 or 13 years, and has been pretty succesful. Still said he and his sons started working on this year's entry about three weeks ago, but they normally start planning two months ahead. Once they find out the theme, like this year's theme of 25 years of Cherry Blossom, they get down to work and let Katie Conner do all of the graphic part.

Other contestants in the bed race included the Macon-Bibb Transit Authority, which had a time of 23.08 seconds and was named the Most Original by the judges; Cricket Communications, which had a time of 24.26 seconds and was named Funniest by the judges; and the Robins Air Force Department's C-130 Paint Shop, which had a time of 23.24 seconds.


VIDEO | A pink tradition

Those Macon-Bibb County firefighters are all heart. The pink pancake breakfast in Central City Park started at 7:30 this morning. It's not even light out that early any more with the time change, and there's no telling how much earlier they had to be there to start making enough pancakes for the 7:30 a.m. crowd. And those firefighters are quite chipper for a group who got up so early in the morning. I went over to talk with some of them while they were making pancakes and they were cutting up with the best of them. They were so much fun, especially Lt. Danny Angelo, who played along with the camera for me. As one of my breakfast companions said, "Those pink pancakes were $5, but that comedy was priceless."

I got there about 9:30 this morning and there was a steady crowd constantly rolling in for pancakes even though it was quite cold and windy. I guess those yummy pancakes have developed quite a reputation over the years, and yummy they definitely are. Because of my work schedule, I don't normally get up so early, but those pancakes are worth every bit of sleep I lose. They'll be serving more pancakes from 7:30-10:30 a.m. next Saturday in the same spot and you can bet I'll probably be there again! It's $5 but the money goes toward a good cause, so come on out and join me next week.


Friday, March 16, 2007

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Elvis, tigers and gospel, oh my!

This evening I went to Central City Park for the Bengal tiger birthday celebration. The event was very similar to one of the regular tiger shows, but it also included people wearing party hats and a 10-pound birthday cake made of raw meat. Mmmmm ... yum! After the tigers played a little and showed off some of their tricks, and even after a couple of them relieved themselves in front of the entire audience, the three birthday tigers got to come back out of their cages for a special treat of meringue. The meringue was served in a cardboard box, though, and just like little kitties, the three found the box more interesting than what was in it. There were a few catfights, and one tiger finally succeeded in getting the box to himself before they were all put back in their cages to be served the beefcake. The cake was a little disgusting looking but entertaining at the same time, and it reminded me a little of France, where some people enjoy eating "steak tartar" - or raw meat. One little boy, Camryn Collier, who will be turning 5 on Tuesday, got to go up close and celebrate with the tigers as the Birthday Song was belted out and the cake was cut. Camryn didn't get a piece of this special cake, but he didn't seem to mind too much.






After the tiger birthday party, I wandered over to the main stage to see if the Elvis impersonators were milling about because they were supposed to go on at 6:30 before the Elvis Tribute featuring Kraig Parker, which was to start at 8. Alas, I only saw one Elvis and with the crowd he was starting to draw, it was almost as though he was the King himself.

After winding my way out of Central City Park and getting stuck waiting on the train to pass, I stopped by the Cherry Blossom Gospel Concert at the Grand Opera House. I don't know why I thought the concert might be somewhat stuffy and boring, but I was completely wrong. The group Cavalry's Way was funny and quite entertaining, and the local choir after them, Psalms 33, had the crowd on their feet. I've never been to Grand, and it truly is a breath-taking building. I moved from the bottom floor up to the balcony at one point, and the view is just as good from the top as from the bottom. It's definitely worth checking out when you have the chance.

Saturday should be a busy day and I might not be able to post much during the afternoon. It was really windy out tonight and it's supposed to be windy tomorrow, but I'm hoping it won't mean the cancellation of the air festivities. Last year the wind was so bad that one of the balloons topple over and pulled a van a little along behind it. Here's hoping the wind isn't that bad this year!

NO! It can't be!

I got this note today from Telegraph staff writer Travis Fain, who is busy covering the Legislature in Atlanta this season.
"The blossoms are really starting to pop up here. There are several trees near my apartment on the top end perimeter and along my drive down I-85 into downtown Atlanta. I'd say these trees are a couple of days away from their peak - significantly further along than the pic. up on your blog right now."
What? The blossoms can't be doing better in Atlanta than in Macon! Isn't Macon supposed to be the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World?
That's all right. They can have their early smattering of blossoms because I'm sure they won't look anything like ours do when they hit full bloom next week.

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW | Don't rain on our festival

The 25th annual Cherry Blossom Festival is officially under way. City leaders and Cherry Blossom officials cut the pink ribbon at lunch Friday to kick off the first weekend of the festival. The event was supposed to take place on the main stage in Central City Park, but because of a light drizzle, the ribbon-cutting was moved indoors. By the time the ribbon-cutting was over, the sun was starting to break through the clouds a little to make way for some sunny weather this weekend, even if it is a little windy.



Thursday, March 15, 2007

VIDEO | The president himself

Right now, Wright Tilley, president and CEO of the Cherry Blossom Festival, is probably one of the busiest people in Macon. Tomorrow, the 10-day festival that he works all year for is set to begin, and from an outsider's perspective, everything seems to be falling into place. Now, if only the weather would cooperate. Tilley and his staff seem pretty upbeat that the weather won't be a problem - just as long as it doesn't interfere with the weekend's air show. Aside from the weather, Tilley and I spoke about his pink wardrobe and whether he might be participating as a model in Thursday's fashion show. And, I wanted to know if he had any secrets for making the trees bloom, because the past two out of three years he has been in charge of the festival, it seems the blooms have been doing their best to cooperate. Find out what he had to say. CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO OF WRIGHT TILLEY.

In case of rain

I spoke with Wright Tilley, the CBF president and CEO, today for a video that I'll post later this afternoon. This weather seems to not be sure of what it wants to do - it was supposed to be raining today, but it has yet to do so. It is also supposed to be raining tomorrow morning, so I checked with him on where the ribbon-cutting is going to be held Friday at lunch if it is raining. If it is just a light drizzle, the ribbon-cutting will continue on the main stage in Central City Park, he said. If it is raining really hard, the ribbon-cutting will still be in Central City Park - it will just move to the inside of one of the buildings, like the Round Building.

Hanging with Gris

I spent part of the afternoon Wednesday talking with Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore about his plans to serve as a guide on bus tours during the Cherry Blossom Festival. I plan to post some video later, but I thought this photo was great and wanted to go ahead and share it!

Riding in style

When I learned Peggy Whyte was in The Telegraph's parking lot Wednesday afternoon, I immediately ran outside to make sure she didn't leave before decorating my car with Cherry Blossoms. I was out of town this year - and last year, too - the first Saturday of March when she was painting cars for the Think Pink Car Painting event at ACME on Riverside Drive, and had been somewhat disappointed that I was missing out on the chance to get my car all pimped out for the festival. I was glad to learn Wednesday that I hadn't missed my chance, and you haven't either if you still want to get your car decorated. She charges $3 for one blossom, $5 for two blossoms and $1 for text. To contact her, call (478) 737-3059.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

VIDEO | Jewelry maker finds success with Cherry Blossom designs

On my recent visit to the Cherry Blossom Gift Shop, I met one of the store's featured jewelry designers, Deborah Lynn Schwanebeck. Deborah Lynn has been designing jewelry for a little more than a year now and her work is featured in several stores in Macon and Warner Robins. Over the past year, her business has grown more than she could have imagined and she's even considering expanding it beyond Middle Georgia. Click here to listen to Deborah Lynn Schwanebeck talk about her jewelry.

Cherry Shoppin'

Most people don't realize that the Cherry Blossom Gift Shop, located on Mulberry Street in downtown Macon, is open year-round. Like me, many people only really think about its existence when this special time of year starts to roll around. A visit to the store this past week proved that while the gift shop is home to many things Cherry Blossom, those special trinkets are only a fragment of the specialty items the store carries. Gifts for a new baby (or perhaps a new pet), beaded jewelry, and even knick-knacks such as a hammer that comes dressed as a high-heeled shoe are just a sampling of things you'll find at the Cherry Blossom Gift Shop. While you might not find many things for that special man in your life at the store, it's definitely a great place to consider when you're looking for a unique gift for birthdays, baby showers, and even Mother's Day. Just take a look for yourself. Click here to take a tour of the Cherry Blossom Gift Shop.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Up in the sky

Columnist Ed Grisamore has spotted one of the first blossoms of the season! Read about it and see a picture of it here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blossom Watch update

A couple of readers have asked about the Blossom Watch feature in the rail of this blog. I definitely plan to try to keep it as updated as possible so that you'll know when and where you can find blossoms throughout town. I can't make it everywhere in town everyday, though, so I would love some e-mails from readers letting me know if you see blossoms in your neighborhood. Please just drop me a quick note at and let me know about a specific neighborhood where you've spotted blossoms. I - and many other readers - will be most grateful! Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Leaving a trail of blossoms

City of Macon workers were out on Cherry Street today painting the town pink - well, the streets at least. The workers were busy repainting the cherry blossoms at each of the street corners along Cherry. These photos are from the intersection of Cherry and Second streets, right in front of Karla's Shoe Boutique.