During the Cherry Blossom Festival, downtown’s Central City Park will be transformed into pink central for 10 days of midway rides, animal shows, vendors and cars.
“The park is the hub of the festival where everybody meets,” said Linda Maddox, executive director of the festival’s Central City Park activities. “We’ve got a little bit of everything. We try to make it as pink as we can every year.”
The park officially opens Friday and will have a range of shows and typical fair fanfare happening through March 29.
“We have vendors -- inside and outside vendors, unusual vendors. It’s shopping, but it’s unique shopping. ... A lot of stuff is handmade,” Maddox said. “We’ve got food. ... We have Mexican, we have Greek, we have Asian, we have Italian, we have American, we have all kinds of festival food. I’ve even got someone doing crepes this year -- a little bit of everything.”
New this year will be a $5 admission charge to get into the park. The festival eliminated a parking fee but anyone 11 and older will have to pay to enter the park.
There are some special days during the week that will allow military, veterans, seniors and other people in uniform to have free entry from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The park also is free to anyone from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. March 23-26.
Here are some highlights of what is happening at Central City Park:
Aussie Kingdom: This year’s featured animal show will be kangaroos -- six different species and some babies. The show was chosen before the festival picked Australia as the featured nation.
“We work hard to bring unique animals,” Maddox said. “The lions and tigers have been (here), and the sea lions, and now the kangaroos.”
There will be three shows each day at 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
“This is something you’re not going to want to miss,” Maddox said. “Not only is it going to be fun, it’s going to be very educational. Kids love to learn and they are going to have fun at the same time.”
Horses, Horses, Horses: A new event featuring more than 12 horses -- including some miniatures -- will make up this show. The horses will perform three times a day at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
“This is quite a production,” Maddox said.
Dixie Disc Dogs: This returning event always draws a crowd to watch Frisbee dogs compete for a title.
The competition runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 21 and 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 22.
Skybound Canines: This dog act will round out the second weekend of the festival.
“They do some disc things ... but they also do the dock dogs, which we’ve never had before,” Maddox said. “They run off a dock and jump in the water. ... I think that is going to be a hit all by itself.”
There will be shows at noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 27-29.
The rides are always a highlight and include a mix of choices from young to old. New this year will be a 110-foot tall swing.
Like past years, the festival will offer armband days on March 23-26 when $20 will get unlimited rides.
There also will be free rides both Saturdays of the festival from 9:30-11 a.m. and Sundays with a church bulletin from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
The rides will run during normal park hours. Those hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. March 20 and 27, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. March 21 and 28, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. March 22 and 29, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. March 23 and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. March 24-26.
The big field at the park is transformed into a car showroom March 28 for the 19th annual Mustang & All Ford Show. This annual event features everything from classic and antique Mustangs and Fords to newer models.
The event starts at 8:30 a.m. and cars can register to participate for $20 by March 21 or $25 the day of the show.
For more information about registering a car for the show, visit www.flag citymustangclub.com.