The sun was smacking the day with kisses. The birds were singing. The cherry trees had a thousand bows in their hair.
So I really didn’t need any additional inspiration Monday morning at Central City Park.
I got some anyway when I had a chat with Leon “Red” Herring.
I volunteered to serve as a tour bus guide for a group from Savannah, and they were 30 minutes late. That gave me a chance to visit with Red, who has been a “bus dispatcher” at the park for 26 of the 32 Cherry Blossom festivals.
Never miss a local story.
Yes, Red wears pink at this time every year.
I was inspired because he is 96 years old and the oldest volunteer at the festival.
I welcomed his wonderful spirit since I had a challenge ahead of me. In the fourth round of my Cherry Blossom bracket, Macon was matched against heavily favored Savannah.
OK, it wasn’t exactly March Madness. I did, however, want to impress these visitors who might not be easily impressed. After all, they live in Savannah, which ranks with Charleston as one of the South’s most charming cities.
I have volunteered as a tour guide since 2003, and I have been proud to show off Macon in its finest apparel. Of course, the Yoshino cherry trees are the stars of the show. And they haven’t been this pretty for the start of the festival since 2009.
When you combine Macon’s springtime beauty with its rich history, remarkable architecture and Southern hospitality, you have plenty of style points to show off for visitors from places like northern Ohio and eastern New Jersey.
But folks from Savannah -- I have a sister who lives there -- can boast that they live in one of the loveliest of lovely places. “Travel and Leisure” magazine consistently crowns it as one of “America’s Favorite Cities.’’
Still, I wasn’t going down without a fight. Or at least hold my own.
Savannah has wide avenues and impressive parks. So do we. They have bricks streets. So do we. (I took my group over to Bond Street and would have taken them to High Street, but we ran out of time.)
They have beautiful, historic downtown churches. So do we. (And we’ve got more churches per capita than anywhere in the South.) They’ve got Bonaventure Cemetery. We have Rose Hill. They’ve got Tybee Island. We’ve got Sandy Beach at Lake Tobesofkee. (OK, I’ll concede that one.)
They’ve got historic homes. We have even more of them. In fact, Macon has 12 historic districts -- more than any other city in Georgia -- and more than 5,500 historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I took my group inside the Woodruff House and told them I’ll stack the Hay House up against anything in Savannah.
They have green beer for the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. We have pink beer making its debut for the Cherry Blossom Festival. They have Paula Deen. We have Nu-Way, the second-oldest hot dog restaurant in the land.
The movie “Forest Gump” was filmed in Savannah. We have had three movies -- “Trouble With the Curve,’’ “42” and “Need for Speed -- all filmed here in the last 24 months.
Savannah certainly can’t claim to have a college basketball team to make the NCAA tournament. And beat Duke. And capture the hearts of fans all over the country. (I did give our visitors an assist on the play, though, since Mercer senior center Daniel Coursey is from Savannah.)
And while they don’t have a Mercer, they did give the world Johnny Mercer, who wrote the lyrics to “Moon River,’’ one of the prettiest songs ever. Still, they can’t boast a Little Richard, Otis Redding, Jason Aldean or The Allman Brothers Band like we can.
So, yes, Macon was able to go toe-to-toe with Savannah on my tour bus Monday.
I like to believe we both won.
Reach Gris at 744-4275.