Cherry Blossom events draw big crowds

Cherry Blossom events draw big crowds

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 22, 2014 

If you couldn’t find something to pique your interest in the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, you might want to consider whether your interests are far too narrow.

Events included a reptile show, a strongest man competition, a carnival, a dog disc-catching competition, a hot dog eating contest, concerts and a Ukrainian dance ensemble, just to name a few.

But perhaps the most popular event was the annual bed race and high heel run, which drew a huge crowd to Cherry Street.

For the third year in a row, the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department won the bed race speed competition, and for the first time, they had to win twice. After winning the first round, they had to race again against the second-place finisher, the Wellness Center. Despite little rest, they won again by three seconds.

Firefighter Josh Johnson, a member of the team, said they didn’t find out they would have to race a second time until the last minute.

“We practice so much, it really wasn’t much of a shock,” he said. “This is like the Olympics to us. We take pride in it.”

The bed race was followed by the equally popular high heel race, in which men, women and children sprint a city block in high heel shoes to raise money for breast cancer research.

Walter Hawthorne of Macon competed in the race for the first time and went all out on the costume. While some male competitors just had on the shoes and regular clothes, Hawthorne wore a long skirt and wig.

“I had to get jazzed up,” he said. “I don’t know how the women do it.”

He narrowly won the men’s race. He said he was running for his aunt, who was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago. It was serious enough that the family got together and prayed, but after surgery she has been cancer free for eight years.

Jan Theise, the Royalty Program coordinator for the festival, said the day was turning out well.

“There’s so many people out,” she said. “It’s exciting, and it’s beautiful weather.”

Central City Park featured a full day of activities, beginning with the Pink Pancake Breakfast. Visitors could also hitch a ride on a camel or a helicopter.

The park was also the location of the Dixie Disc Dog Championship, which grew a good crowd of spectators.

The first competitors were Geegee Barrus, 6, and her brother, Dexter Barrus, 7, from Birmingham, Ala. Their dad, Darron Barrus, also a competitor, said the Cherry Blossom event is one of his favorites.

“It’s always warm, the crowd is spectacular and the kids love the carnival,” he said. “But the biggest thing is that they have a junior competition, and a lot of events don’t.”

For anyone who likes dogs but doesn’t have patience for training, disc catching might be for them. Barrus said if the dog is into it, it really doesn’t take much training.

“They do it naturally,” he said. “The hardest part is learning how to throw the Frisbee.”

Steve and Sue Jones, of Macon, said they have attended the Cherry Blossom Festival every year since it started. They especially enjoy the bed race and high heel race.

“It brings a lot of people into Macon and it’s a fun time at the beginning of spring,” she said.

With so many Cherry Blossom Festival activities on Saturday, the Pink Pancake Breakfast was the perfect spot to start a busy weekend.

Barbara Bates, of Macon, whose grandson was “really excited” to see a pink poodle, said, “We got up, didn’t eat breakfast and came down here to let somebody else cook.”

Tommy Howell, of Gray, said his favorite part of the festival is the breakfast, which benefits the American Cancer Society.

“We’ve come out to the Pink Pancake Breakfast and then we’re going to ride the rides. My little girl wants to ride the rides in the fair,” he said.

It was Angela Johnson’s first time at the breakfast, which is held at Central City Park.

“Usually I’m asleep this time of day,” she said.

Johnson can get another round of pancakes next Saturday.

The Macon-Bibb County firefighters manning the griddle will be out again serving up pancakes and sausage to festival-goers for $5 starting at 7 a.m.

Erica O’Neal of the Center for Collaborative Journalism contributed to this report. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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