Rain causes some changes to Cherry Blossom events

pramati@macon.comMarch 28, 2014 

  • Watch the Cherry Blossom Festival Court sing “It’s Cherry Blossom Time”. Video by Woody Marshall

Friday’s rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the Founder’s Day celebration at the Cherry Blossom Festival, but it will keep festival organizers on alert through Saturday.

The rain prompted the festival to shut down activities at Central City Park at 5 p.m. Friday, and forced organizers to postpone the Pink Pancake Breakfast from Saturday to Sunday from 7-10 a.m. at the park. Organizers will decide at noon Saturday what time the park reopens for the scheduled festival events.

Meanwhile, organizers said Friday afternoon that the Food Truck Frenzy and Mulberry Street Arts & Crafts Festival are set to go on as scheduled, but the arts and crafts show could move to the Farmer’s Market on Eisenhower Parkway if the rain gets worse.

Most of the Cherry Blossom Festivals since 2010 have been affected by rain on the second weekend. The weather has been so consistently poor over the past few years that organizers this year replaced the Street Party with a pub crawl called the Cherry Blossom Music Festival, which will span several downtown establishments.

Organizers urged attendees to check the festival’s Facebook page for updates.

Some of the artists planning to set up booths for the crafts sale took the weather in stride. Many of them have attended the festival over the past few years, including last year, when the event was moved to the Farmer’s Market.

Jim Wolfgang of Milledge­ville, who runs a booth featuring his wife Maryllis’ photography, said he was impressed last year when organizers managed to get all the sellers’ booths organized at the Farmer’s Market in just four hours.

“The weather is always a factor, but Macon is no different than any other shows that are put on outside in the South during spring,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you get rain, but we’re all professional gamblers. ... A lot of it is the attitude you have.”

Wolfgang and others remain hopeful that the rain will pass through early Saturday and not have a huge impact on the number of Mulberry Street shoppers. Sunday’s weather is expected to be clear.

Friday morning’s downpour caused the Founder’s Day festivities to be moved inside Terminal Station, where attendees enjoyed free cupcakes, ice cream, soft drinks and doughnuts.

Founder’s Day honors festival founder Carolyn Crayton as well as the late Bill Fickling Sr., who started the practice of giving out Yoshino cherry trees to his friends. As his grandson Bill Fickling III noted Friday, the elder Fickling was originally supposed to have white dogwoods planted in front of the house he was building in 1948. Instead, the landscaper planted other white trees -- which turned out to be Yoshino cherry trees -- which Fickling wasn’t able to identify until he made a trip to Washington, D.C., years later.

“Through some fortunate accident, the landscaper completely switched the trees. We don’t know why,” Fickling told those in attendance. “My grandfather had no idea what they were. ... He changed Macon fundamentally and profoundly once they knew what they were.”

The elder Fickling eventually started to give the trees as gifts to his friends. Years later, when Carolyn Crayton formed the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, she asked Fickling to donate 1,000 trees to the cause. He ended up donating 10,000 that first year.

The Fickling family has donated about 365,000 Yoshinos over the past 40 years.

As a thank you, Crayton held a large birthday celebration for the elder Fickling in 1982. That morphed into the Cherry Blossom Festival the next year.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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