I was honored to speak at the Cherry Blossom Festival Author’s Luncheon on Tuesday for the second time in three years.
When I spoke in 2012, I have to admit there was some pressure on me. I was on the program with former Mercer University President Kirby Godsey and actress Barbara Eden.
So I was sandwiched between a brilliant man who had written a book about God and a pretty lady who was the star of “I Dream of Jeannie.’’
And I had written a book about Nu-Way hot dogs.
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So I joked that I had persuaded Barbara Eden to change the name of her book to “I Dream of Weenie.’’
It made everybody laugh and broke the Famous Flaky Ice, so to speak.
Imagine that. Eden made millions of people laugh on her 1960s television show. And I had made her laugh. That’s a memory I will hold on to for a long time.
I didn’t even try to top that one-liner this year as I joined fellow authors Mary Kay Andrews, Nancy Brandon and Martha Tate at the luncheon. (Nancy, by the way, is a graduate of Macon’s Central High School and the daughter of former Telegraph writer Skippy Davis.)
I was there with my new book, which bloomed a few weeks ago, called “The Pinkest Party on Earth.’’
It’s about the Cherry Blossom Festival. And it’s a lot like the Nu-Way book because the festival is steeped in history. It is an icon with which we identify Macon, no matter where we go, what we do and who we meet.
As a newspaper columnist, I have written about every aspect of the festival -- from grand marshals and royal courts to the street sweepers who take pride in tidying up the town before the start of the festival.
I have followed the pink line down Cherry Street in the parade and climbed inside the Petals the Poodle costume to entertain folks at Third Street Park. I have participated in the fashion show, stuck my fork in stacks of pink pancakes and served as a volunteer tour bus guide since 2003.
In the book, I sought to tell the story of those beautiful trees that take our breath away every spring. Of course, I wanted to lift up the legacy of William Fickling Sr., who gave away more than 120,000 trees to this community. And to Carolyn Crayton, who had the vision and the passion for transforming that beauty into a springtime celebration for the past 32 years.
But I also wanted it to be the story of all those folks who share in the success of this festival because they support and promote it in their own ways.
The book is for them and about them.
They might not dance at the ball or attend the authors luncheon at the country club. But they put a pink bow on their mailbox and hang a pink wreath on their door. They wear pink ties and scarves and have pink petals painted on the windows of their cars. They show up for free concerts, fireworks and bed races. Or participate in something as simple as riding through the neighborhoods to marvel at the blossoms.
Over the past few days, we have witnessed how Mercer men’s basketball team has brought a sense of pride and spirit to our community. It has been one of those times when we were all on the same team, all wrapped in orange.
And that’s the way this festival is.
Pink is the color that draws us together.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org