Cherry Blossom Founder’s Day sweet on friendship

Pink cake, ice cream, doughnuts and candy celebrate founders’ relationship

lfabian@macon.comMarch 22, 2013 

Cloudy day doldrums couldn’t compete with the sugar high waiting to happen Friday at the Terminal Station.

Cherry Blossom Festival dignitaries celebrated the friendship of co-founders William A. Fickling Sr. and Carolyn Crayton, with volunteers ready to dish out Kroger cherry ice cream, pink-decorated Krispy Kreme donuts, Amanda’s blossom-laden cupcakes, and Crown Candy cherry divinity.

After 30 years, telling the tale in a new way can be a challenge.

“You’ve probably heard at least part of the story of how my grandfather rooted cuttings from that original cherry tree, and he would give them away to friends and plant them in his yard,” said Roy Fickling, grandson of the late co-founder. “A few hundred turned into a few thousand, and a few thousand turned into a few hundred thousand.”

But Fickling took the trail less traveled and spoke to the root of the relationship: Crayton’s complaint that the real estate magnate created an eyesore by tearing down buildings on Forsyth Road across from Wesleyan College, the property where a Kroger and other businesses are now located.

After his grandfather cleaned up the lot, he put up a sign reading, “Is this OK, Carolyn?”

The messages started popping up everywhere as Crayton was promoting her Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful campaign in the late 1970s.

Crayton said one of them even showed up on Mont Blanc in the Alps during an overseas trip with a local delegation.

“A complaint bloomed into a wonderful friendship that turned out to be a relationship where Carolyn did what Carolyn does. She prodded my grandfather and persuaded him to keep giving away those trees,” Fickling said.

Crayton convinced Fickling that the festival would be a way to celebrate love, beauty and international friendship.

“She has the unique ability to inspire others through her charm, grace and endless energy,” said Theresa Robinson, a Georgia Power executive and chairwoman-elect of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission. “Through her thoughtful creativity, what started as a three-day festival has now become a memorable 10-day festival and celebration for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Dozens of people applauded in the old train station as Crayton stepped forward in her pink jacket, matching turtleneck and jeweled ice cream cone pinned on her shoulder.

“Oh, my. Thank you, Theresa,” Crayton said at the microphone. “I’m so choked up I’m not sure I’ll be able to speak to you, and all of you know, I’m never speechless.”

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