It’s hard to believe how quickly time passes, that is until you’re reminded of something. Wednesday, the Cherry Blossom Festival announced that a former staple of the festival, the Street Party, was making a come back. It disappeared from the festival for a variety of reasons five years ago. Has it really been that long? Cherry Street merchants thought the party — which attracted thousands of people — hurt their businesses. A fact hard to refute. After all, the businesses had to generally close early to avoid the crowds and once the party started festival goers weren’t interested in shopping but partying. And there were plenty of vendors outside who were more than glad to quench their thirst. And lastly, like most large crowds, they left Cherry Street a mess.
Over the life of the Street Party various radio stations brought in musical acts and sponsored stages from the Terminal Station to Second Street, sometimes beyond. And while most years everything went fine, the party did have a few issues other than disgruntled business owners. Probably the No. 1 issue was weather. Due to the number of acts and different stages, having another location in case of inclement weather was impractical. Festival organizers were caught in an impossible situation year-after-year of having to make a call — early in the day — about whether to have the Street Party or not. Guess wrong and it’s a failure. Guess right, and it could be a failure, too.
This year, the Street Party will be held April 1 and have just one stage at Cotton Avenue and Poplar Street, just in front of the Government Center (City Hall), at about the same location where James Brown performed during the Ellis administration. The artists for the Street Party are Nashville songwriting duo Me and Molly (Molly Stevens is from Macon); singer-songwriter JD McPherson; soul legend Mavis Staples (Staple Singers); and Chuck Leavell, keyboardist with the Rolling Stones and former member of the Allman Brothers Band, who will be performing with the Randall Bramblett Band).
There was more good news at the announcement. Remember the minor dust up between the festival and county officials over the availability of Central City Park during the festival? It seems all that worry was much to do about nothing. The construction work funded with special purpose local option sales tax funds should be complete before the festival begins and the festival will be free to have its exhibits, attractions, rides, concerts, food and vendors as usual in the much-improved park.
Warning: Everyone should put their priceless pink wardrobes in the dry cleaners and beat the rush. The festival runs from March 24-April 2, and as usual, the 35th annual International Cherry Blossom Festival will be the pinkest party in town.