This year, the Cherry Blossom parade will have a new twist. Participants in a road race will run along the parade route prior to the parade.
“For the first time, we are allowing the Wesley Glen Road Race to take place before the parade, so some of their runners will run on our parade route,” said Stacy Moore, president and CEO of Macon Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival.. “So if they (spectators) get there early, they can cheer on some of the runners ... before the event.”
Moore said that they specifically moved the parade route so that people waiting for the parade to start could see and cheer for the runners.
The race starts Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m. and the 38th annual parade starts at 4 p.m. The approximately two-mile parade starts on Cherry Street, turns on First Street and will end on Mulberry Street.
There were nearly 500 runners in the race last year, said Julie Rogers, director of development for Wesley Glen Ministries. The race will start and end at Rosa Parks Square.
Rogers said Wesley Glen Ministries, an adult residential and day program in Macon, will have two cars in the parade. Riding in one car will be the top male and female winners from the race.
At 4 p.m., there will be an F-15 flyover from Robins Air Force Base to kick off the parade. Moore said the aircraft will fly straight over Cherry Street from Terminal Station. The grand marshal for the parade will be Ronald McDonald from the Ronald McDonald House. He will be riding in a Mustang provided by the Flag City Mustang Club.
The celebrity marshal will be actor Michael O’Leary who starred in “The Guiding Light” during the entire course of the show. In addition, Curtis Jones will be honored as the community marshal for winning the National School Superintendent of the Year award.
One unique part of the parade, Moore said, is that all of the honored festivals will have units in the parade. These festivals include the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Fiesta San Antonio, Minneapolis Aquatennial, St. Paul Winter Carnival and DeSoto Days. These festivals will bring their queens and will be featured in some way in the parade.
Another special part of the parade is the featured nations, Moore said. The nations featured in the parade are Japan, Taiwan, India, Italy, and Mexico. It is the first time that Mexico will be featured in the festival and the parade.
“Mexico has several units in the parade this year that will be quite interesting,” Moore said. “Mexico has a group of rancheros that will be riding horses, and then they’ll have the ladies that wear the big colorful dresses and dance. They will have floats and entertainment groups primarily.”
In addition to the festivals and countries, about seven marching bands will be in the parade.
Insider tips for the parade
Parking: Available in any of the parking garages in the surrounding areas. Parking meters are not activated on Sunday so spectators can also park along the side streets downtown if they are not blocked off.
Prime parade viewing: For people with older individuals or young children, Moore suggests setting up on the Mulberry Street side of the parade. There’s lots of shade and grass in that area.
Show your support: Going to the parade? Take a copy of The Telegraph’s Festival Cheer Card on page 27 of this special section with you. Hold it up to show your support for all the parade participants and all of the Cherry Blossom Festival events. If we spot you with our Cheer Card, we may take your your picture and put it on macon.com.