For her final parade as Cherry Blossom Festival president and CEO, Karen Lambert admitted Sunday that she made a wish for perfect weather.
It helped to have the actress who played a genie present in order to grant it.
Barbara Eden, who starred in the sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” from 1965-70, rode in a vintage Corvette down Cherry Street as the honorary grand marshal for Sunday’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival parade.
“This parade, my goodness, it’s a big deal,” said Eden after her route ended. “This is my first time in Macon, but not Georgia. People are friendly and warm, and very pink, which happens to be my favorite color.”
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Eden often wore pink outfits while playing “Jeannie.” She’ll also be the festival’s guest Tuesday when she talks about her book at Idle Hour Country Club at 11:30 a.m.
With temperatures in the mid-80s Sunday afternoon and not a drop of rain, Lambert got pretty good value for her wish.
“I absolutely did (make a wish),” Lambert said with a chuckle. “I think she’s granted it.”
Lambert said it was a bittersweet feeling to ride in her final parade as head of the festival, but thinks it might have been the best-attended parade yet. The driver of the horse-drawn wagon she and others rode upon told her that it was the largest crowd for the event he had ever seen.
Stacy Campbell, marketing director for the festival, said there were 100 parade units this year, with a wide array of countries represented, including Taiwan, Uganda, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Russia, Japan and Great Britain. Many of those countries had representatives wearing ceremonial clothing unique to their homeland.
Many elected officials rode in several of the vehicles with family members, including Mayor Robert Reichert, Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, State Sen. Miriam Paris and state Reps. Allen Peake and Bubber Epps.
“It’s fun,” Peake said. “It’s great for our community. It’s a shot in the arm for our businesses and it’s part of our way of life. I’m proud to be part of it.”
Hart said he saw people lined up eight-to-10 deep along the parade route.
“This is as big as I can remember seeing it,” he said. “I think it shows that people are happy with the direction our community is going. ... The church service (Sunday morning) was well attended. Everything (the festival has) done has been great. ... If Jeannie holds off the rain, this will probably be our biggest one ever.”
As with previous parades, elementary, middle and high school bands marched among the floats, with one notable difference -- this year marked the first time Howard High School participated.
For this year’s class of seniors -- who were in their freshman year when the high school opened four years ago -- it made the occasion extra special since their first Cherry Blossom parade would also be the last time many of them wore their band uniforms.
“For this school, this is a real big honor,” band director Ronald Hill said. “This is the largest the band has ever been, with 65 members. ... This is a big deal.”
“This is a chance for me to march with my high school,” senior trombonist Benjamin Tiernan said. “There were only 13 of us when (the band program) started.”
Added fellow senior Jakeitha Kitchens, who plays the clarinet: “I never thought that this would come for us for my senior year. ... I’m so happy to do this my senior year. This is my last parade, the last time I’ll be in this uniform.”
Colleen Giffin of Macon and Collette Jones of Warner Robins brought their children out Sunday to watch their husbands march as part of the Cox Communications entry. Jones said it was her first Cherry Blossom parade and that it was a lot bigger than she expected.
Giffin said this was her second time coming to the parade.
“It’s been enjoyable,” she said. “Seeing the international participation was good -- I enjoyed seeing the different aspects of their culture. The bands are always enjoyable.”