Cherry Blossom Festival time in Macon means different things to different people.
To the visitors who come here from all over the state and from other states and countries, it is a chance to photograph some of the 300,000 flowering Yoshino cherry trees, admire the historic architecture in the city and tap their toes to the beat of a band in Central City Park.
To some of the hotels, motels, restaurants and other businesses, the festival brings new customers in their doors.
We always get more business (during the festival), said Leah Rayl a server at Adrianas Café on Cherry Street. We get a lot of new people who come in and then they come back. Its fun. ... Its good for downtown.
Business increases about 20 percent during the 10-day festival, Rayl said.
It depends on the weather and a lot of other things, she said.
Not only does the Italian restaurant draw a lot of visitors from all over Georgia, theyve had customers from New York to Florida.
The 220-room Macon Marriott City Center hotel on Coliseum Drive is seeing good occupancy numbers during the festival, said General Manager David McCartney.
It was sold out this past weekend, which is wonderful and then we are forecasting a sell out next weekend, McCartney said. During the week we have strong occupancy but we are not sold out. ... We are helping sponsor the festival with some of their rooms for visiting dignitaries so some of those folks are from out of town.
While McCartney has worked for Marriott in other places that had festivals, such as Savannah, Atlanta, Hilton Head, S.C., and Asheville, N.C., this festival is much longer than most.
Its especially nice to see a community sustain it for a 10-day period for everybodys sake in the region, he said.
At least 35 custom tours have been confirmed for this years festival, according to figures provided by The Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The numbers have fluctuated during the past few years. There were 36 tours in 2010, 40 in 2009, 29 in 2008 and 56 in 2007.
The number of visitors to CVB during the festival has been fairly steady with 4,964 last year, 4,846 in 2009, 4,124 in 2008 and 5,736 in 2007.
With the cherry trees in full bloom this year, it helps greet the thousands of visitors coming to town, said Monica Smith, president and CEO of the CVB.
These 10 days showcase Macons attractions, hotels, restaurants and merchants in their best light when everyone works together to entertain and host our visitors, Smith said. We hope that all will enjoy their visit this year and return year after year.
Even though the Homewood Suites by Hilton off Bass Road in north Bibb County is a little ways from where most Cherry Blossom Festival events are held, it still reaps some benefit from it, said Cathy Garofalo, general manager.
We do have a large tour bus coming next weekend from Florida, taking 29 rooms, Garofalo said. Thats a good size.
Also, since the hotel is an extended stay hotel catering to business travelers, we are telling our guests at dinner, you need to bring your wives here, its Cherry Blossom time, she said.
The hotel has a good partnership with Natalias restaurant which opened next door last year.
Natalia del Basso-Orsini, owner of Natalias, said she has gotten a good deal of business from the festival.
In the past we got a lot more walk-ins, she said. ... I think its a good thing for the city -- not just the downtown area. ... I think its great for everybody. There are new people exposed to our city.
Festival-goers also enjoy Macons poplar Nu-Way Weiners, said co-owner Spyros Dermatas.
No doubt about it, our downtown store sees quite a few visitors, including international visitors, Dermatas said. Weve had Chinese, Koreans, all over the Pacific Rim and not to mention Europeans, and they love to take pictures, too.
The downtown store has between a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in business during the two weekends of the festival, he said.
During the week, we might see 5 percent to 10 percent boost, but its not like were overwhelmed like we are on the weekends, Dermatas said.
A couple from Michigan came in the eatery during last years festival, and they said they were anxious to come back and eat the Nu-Way hot dogs, he said.
Apparently we must have made a good impression on them. ... We love Cherry Blossom. Weve supported it for years.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.