Cherry Blossom Festival

Arts and food festivals meld traditions of cherry trees, dogs and fun

For most of her life, Belle, 10, has been a regular at the Cherry Blossom Festival. On Saturday, she was basking in the sun after chomping down a hot dog from Macon’s Food Truck Frenzy.

“She likes the music and the hot dogs,” said Liz Stoldt, who treats Belle like her own daughter. But there is a problem with the hot dogs, joked Rich Stoldt of Warner Robins: “We haven’t figured out if it’s cannibalism.”

Belle, of course, is a Yorkshire terrier, one of the smallest dogs to walk through the 45th annual Mulberry Street Festival, where dogs and children were plentiful. For some people, the event -- part of the Cherry Blossom Festival -- was a way to fulfill family traditions.

Keysha Foster, a former Valdosta resident who settled in Warner Robins, said her late grandfather had often told her she should go. This was her first try, and she came with Monique Height ,of Savannah, and Height’s three children, who were waiting to try a cheeseburger empanada from a food truck.

Most of the food trucks had unusual specialties, from mac and cheese variants to tapas. One truck offered Korean, Mexican and German flavors with its hot dogs. Rich Stoldt’s fish ‘n’ chips came from The Mobile Marlay, a self-propelled outpost of Decatur’s The Marlay House restaurant. Courtney Benshoof leaned out the window, seemingly always with a smile, to deliver Guinness-battered goodness into the hands of hungry people.

Though this year’s Food Truck Frenzy boasted some nine trucks and a trailer, significantly more than last year’s, lines still extended into the dozens of people, well into the afternoon.

Waiting times wouldn’t deter the Stoldt family, who brought a stroller for Belle the dog, as well as a narrow pink leather leash with white polka dots. Belle was still carried by Rich most of the time, who was, in the aftermath of fish ‘n’ chips, planning to make another tour of the arts and crafts, get more food, tour again and then end, as their family’s tradition calls for, with cherry vanilla ice cream.

Sometimes traditions have deep roots -- literally. Patricia Moe, of Marietta, and Jean Frey, of Dallas, were clutching small cherry trees, their root balls wrapped in plastic. Moe has bought a cherry tree in Macon before.

“I bought one 25, 28 years ago, and it’s beautiful,” she said.

Other people have other long ties to the festivals. Holly Hattaway, of Milledgeville, 24, said she’d been helping her dad ever since she was a little girl. She and another lady were busy weighing and selling Robby’s Old Time Fudge, which her dad’s been making for decades.

“It’s going great!” she said.

Wally Batchelor, who came from Newnan to sell wildflower honey, tupelo honey and other offerings, said the weather and the festival were great.

Dale McDaniel Watts, a retired Central High School special education teacher, said sales at her art booth had been taking off, even as occasional gusts of wind threatened to make the booth itself take off.

“Sales have been great,” said the artist, whose works include depictions of many of Macon’s classic churches. “Crowds have been great. It’s just beautiful.”

Not far away, an artist of different mediums, Susan Atkins of Kathleen-based Charming Faces, confessed she’d once painted the face of a dachsund to look like one of Santa’s reindeer for a veterinarian’s office. On Saturday afternoon, she was painting cherry blossoms on the left cheek of Lydia DeFore of Macon. DeFore’s dog Coco, a 3-year-old Chihuahua-dachsund mix known as a chiweenie, waited patiently in her lap. After the painting was done, the art needed something else, Atkins said.

“Cherry blossoms need the glitter,” she said, pressing shiny bits into the wet paint. DeFore then picked up a mirror.

“Oh, you did it perfect. I’ll have to keep it on all day,” she said, before hopping out of a chair to explore the rest of the street festival.

The Food Truck Frenzy returns Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., located on Third Street and adjoining the Mulberry Street Festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.