The skies were gray when members of the Cherry Blossom Festivals royal court took their seats atop a pale pink and fuschia float.
Nine smiling faces topped with crowns and tiaras were getting ready for a slow spin through downtown Macon with thousands of people lining the streets.
I think I felt rain, yall, one of the princesses warned.
Evening gowns fashioned of dozens of yards of flowing pink fabric were at stake.
Rain or shine, its going to be a great day, 2014 Cherry Blossom Queen Chandler Peavy said.
The Stratford Academy senior has many good memories of her hometown parade.
Its always been a big part of my life, she said. And to be a part of this today is extremely special, and Im so excited.
Little Mr. Cherry Blossom Ayden Birmingham could hardly contain himself.
Its fun, said the little Byron Elementary School student, who was sitting beside the blonde queen. One of the Star Wars characters passing by offered to trade places with the boy, but he didnt take him up on it.
As the first footsteps crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at the launch of the parade, the royal court was inching toward the starting line.
Lining up on Fifth Street, they had time to try out their waves as they passed other marchers waiting to step off.
Princess Kate Long, a senior at Mount de Sales Academy, loves seeing people from all neighborhoods line the streets of downtown.
It means getting to see the greater community of Macon all come together and bridge all the gaps on this one day when everyone can come out and enjoy a simple parade. Kate said. To see everyone in Macon come out is really cool.
The crowd stood four or five deep in some sections of Cherry Street, as the girls waved their way through town.
Its a whole new experience seeing the parade from this side, said Princess Katie Hlavaty, a Stratford senior and competitive dancer. Its so different from standing in the street and looking at the floats.
Hlavatys Stratford classmate and float-mate Claudia Monfort was also seeing the parade from a new vantage point.
It is so exciting, Usually Im on the street watching all the floats go past, Claudia said. Im so excited.
Princess Alexandria Power, also a Stratford senior, was attending her first Cherry Blossom Parade.
Its kind of a neat experience for my first experience to be actually in the parade, Alexandria said. Im sure itll be one that Ill never forget.
Senior Queen Rhonda Moulder, of Warner Robins, remembers seeing her daughter Macy on the parade float when she was a princess in 2011.
Its certainly an honor, Moulder said. Its just representing Macon, which is certainly a city of love, beauty and friendship.
The retired assistant principal, who supervises student teachers at Mercer University, shared the first bench with Senior Princess Jo Ann Bryant, a retired public health nurse.
I think this is one of the most exciting parts of the whole festival, Bryant said. The colors, the excitement, the people, meeting everybody. Its just a delight to be part of the event.
On the back bench, Little Miss Cherry Blossom Sophie Durden said shes enjoyed watching the pretty girls in the parade before.
Its kinda fun, Sophie said. I liked it.
And now that she was wearing one of the seven tiaras and two crowns gliding past the people, what was she thinking of?
Waving, she said.
And before long, the sun was shining.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.