Crowd flocks to Cherry Blossom Festival's arts and craft event despite weather, location change

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 23, 2013 

Rain and a late change of location did little to hold back the Cherry Blossom Festival’s annual arts and crafts event.

Even before the rain stopped Saturday people were pouring in to the impromptu site of the festival at the State Farmers Market. The Middle Georgia Arts Association, which organizes the event, decided Friday to move it there from the traditional Mulberry Street location due to the threat of rain.

Vendors who are veterans of the event said business was just as good as previous years, much to their surprise. Some considered not coming, but were glad they did.

Louie Cheek of Macon was at the festival for the fourth straight year selling wooden pens he makes by hand. He wasn’t expecting much with the weather and change of location, but said he was doing good business.

“I applaud the Middle Georgia Arts Association for thinking this through,” he said. “I really thought that with moving it, there wouldn’t be much of a draw, but the crowds are as good as it has been.”

He makes the pens one at time using a wood lathe. The wood comes from a wide variety of sources, including whiskey barrels, old barn siding, old rocking chairs and, of course, Yoshino cherry trees. His most expensive pen costs over $100 and is made of olive-tree wood from Bethlehem.

The event showcased a lot of human creativity and resourcefulness. Jim Owens of Jackson, Miss., was selling children’s swings he makes out of recycled tire rubber. He shapes the swings to look like a horse, and for safety reasons uses only tires that aren’t made with wires. He makes them strong enough to hold a grown man, which he demonstrated himself.

He was worried about the rain but pleased with the decision to change the location. He said he will definitely be back next year.

“I’m really impressed with the people of Macon and the show itself and the way they put it on,” he said. “Our sales have been great.”

Beverly Reid and Karin Burns, both of Macon, attend the event every year and said they never considered skipping it because of the rain.

“I think it’s wonderful that they chose to have it here,” Reid said. “It’s a good use of space because this place doesn’t stay real busy anymore.”

Burns said they spoke to vendors who preferred the farmers market to the Mulberry Street location.

Candace Daniel, of Thomaston, was at the show for a second year selling soap she makes by hand. A key ingredient is goat milk, provided by 10 Nubian goats she keeps.

She took up soapmaking after buying a bar made from goat milk and decided she liked it. She now makes 1,000 bars a week, selling them for $6 each.

“Goat milk has the same pH as your skin so it agrees with your skin,” she said.

She learned the art after meeting another woman in Georgia who makes and sells goat-milk soap and had no problem helping Daniel get started.

“She told me she couldn’t make enough goat milk soap for the state of Georgia,” she said.

The threat of rain Saturday led to the cancellation of the Food Truck Frenzy, which was a new event for the Cherry Blossom Festival. The organizer, however, plans to come to next year’s festival and try again.

The weather also moved the street party that had been planned to take place at Terminal Plaza downtown to the Macon City Auditorium.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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