Commentary: Plenty to do at Central City Park, even on a budget

pramati@macon.comMarch 26, 2014 

Commentary

Despite spending 17 years in Macon, I had only been to the Cherry Blossom Festival activities at Central City Park as a reporter, not as a normal person. (Perhaps “regular person” would be better phrasing, if less appropriate).

So in meeting with my supervisors about coverage of this year’s festival, we decided to write about spending a day at the park on a budget.

I assumed that meant I’d have carte blanche to do the story, which I did -- if you define carte blanche as being given no more than $50, with strong encouragement that my visit should cost a lot less.

The fact is, a day at the park can be an expensive proposition, given all the food, rides, games and shopping options the park offers.

And I’m just a single guy going through the park. Perhaps the reason I had never been before is that I have no wife or kids. (To-do list: Find future Mrs. Ramati; make some kids).

There are a few tricks to save some money here and there, because the price of things can add up real quick.

The first thing I did was to go to the park between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when parking is free during the week. That saved me $10 right off the bat. It also gave me the benefit of being at the park when there aren’t long lines for food or rides.

I bought the $20 pass that would allow me to go on any ride I wanted as many times as I wanted. If you’re a festival attendee who enjoys rides, then this is the pass for you.

But, if you’re like me and not so big on potentially losing your lunch, then it might behoove you to walk around the park, see how many rides you are interested in riding, and then add up how many tickets you would need. For the same $20, I could have gotten 21 tickets, which might have sated my wish list.

Another piece of advice: Ride the rides first. Don’t go rushing from food truck to food truck and then attempt to ride the Cyclops, a gigantic machine in which the rider is strapped into a chair with legs swinging freely, then spun around 40 feet in the air.

By the way, I’m not speaking from experience -- The Telegraph doesn’t pay me enough to overcome my fear of heights to ride the Cyclops.

Instead, I went on this other high, swinging ride in which the participant sits on a bench and swings around in all directions, but at maybe 30 feet high. This was plenty for me and delayed my going to the food area for a good 30 minutes.

Make sure you pay attention to the signs -- for some of the rides, you must be a minimum height, while you cannot be over a certain weight for others. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not telling you my weight.)

After some more rides, I tried the games next. Because those are cash/credit only, I limited myself to one game that involved trying to toss a whiffle ball into a bucket. My $5 bought me three chances. Suffice it to say, it was very windy that day and my editor won’t be getting the giant stuffed SpongeBob SquarePants toy.

By that time, my stomach was close to settling, so I went off in search of food. When entering the park, I was looking forward to the giant turkey legs because, let’s face it, how often does one get to eat giant turkey legs each year? The prices on everything vary -- $4 for pizza slices to $5 for corn dogs to $6 for bourbon chicken with rice to $9 for the aforementioned turkey leg. Don’t forget to factor in $3 for a small-sized soft drink.

In the end, I eschewed the turkey in favor of pizza, again because I was still a bit ride-sick. I also passed on the $6 brownies and $6 apple or peach cobbler. (Seriously, no cherry cobbler for the Cherry Blossom Festival? Disappointing!)

There’s also plenty of shopping to be done, or -- since I was on The Telegraph’s dime -- browsing to be done. I opted not to get a $10 black-and-white caricature of myself, and passed on the various clothing and handmade items that were being offered. There are actually quite a few bargains to be had, and the quality looks to be first-rate, so you may want to set aside some funds for that.

There also are a number of free activities, ranging from live music (the Mount de Sales choir was performing when I was there) to live reptile shows that are sure to fascinate the kids, as is the petting zoo. The sand sculpture and ikebana arrangements in the Round Building are also worth a detour.

There also are some good giveaways, such as random drawings for guests wearing the most pink or the chance to win $100 by spending $25 at the stalls in Buildings 11 and 13.

There are a number of specific events happening each day at the park, so it’s worth getting a brochure or visiting the festival’s website at www.cherryblossom.com for highlights.

So for me, the final tally was $36: $20 for the all-day ride pass; $4 for a pizza slice and $3 for a soft drink; $5 for a game; and $4 for an Icee.

Not having to file a worker’s comp claim on a death-defying ride -- priceless.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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