The Cherry Blossom Festival is still nearly a week away but key events are kicking off early, beginning with the annual parade.
More than 100 groups, floats and bands will hit the streets of downtown Macon on Saturday for this year's Cherry Blossom Festival parade, themed "Rhapsody in Pink: A Southern Melody."
Typically, the parade happens on the first Sunday of the 10-day festival. But, Easter falls on that Sunday this year so the parade is being held before the official festival start.
"We searched for a way to have our parade on that (first) weekend and it just didn't work," said Festival CEO and President Jake Ferro.
The grand marshal designation is being shared this year by Nu-Way Weiners, the National Park Service and Terminal Station.
"All are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year so they're going to be co-grand marshals with representatives from all of those three organizations," Ferro said.
Other entries include everything from the traditional high school marching bands and pageant queens to horses and cheerleaders. There also will be representatives from each of the festival's featured countries: Japan, Taiwan and Uganda.
The parade will start at 3 p.m. at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cherry Street and run up Cherry Street to New Street, where the Cherry Blossom Festival is headquartered in a pink house. There, the parade will turn and come back down Mulberry Street.
"We've added a couple of blocks to it," Ferro said. "We'd like to have people in the parade really see some beautiful buildings, including our office."
Piggy-backing on the parade's theme will Thursday's Style Show and Luncheon -- a fashion show featuring local celebrities and community members as models.
"The theme is 'Rhapsody in Pink' so we're focusing on music," said Stacy Ingram, who is chairing the show. "The decorations, the decor and the centerpieces will be about music and we've got several local musicians who are modeling in the show."
Some of the models include Mayor Robert Reichert and his wife, Dele, pianist Susan McDuffie, pianist Edward Eikner, Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger, WMAZ weatherman Ben Jones, WDEN morning show hot Vance Shepherd, The Telegraph publisher Don Bailey and local interior designer Katherine Walden.
"They can just expect to see fun fashions from many of our local boutiques as well as the department stores," Ingram said.
The lunch is being handled by Edgar's Bistro and local musician and toastmaster Connie Carey will be the master of ceremonies. This event also includes door prizes, raffles and vendor tables.
"People can do some shopping and browsing before and after the show," Ingram said.
The luncheon will happen at the Anderson Conference Center, 5171 Eisenhower Parkway. The doors will open at 10:30 a.m. and the show and luncheon starts at 11 a.m. Tickets are $40.
Other CBF events this week:
Master Gardener of Central Georgia Spring Plant Sale: This is the third year the Master Gardener's have joined the festival to offer up a range of plants as well as advice and education on everything plant-related.
The three-day sale, which began Thursday, will feature a range of plants priced as low as 25 cents up to about $30, said Diane Stephens, a Master Gardener who is the plant sale coordinator. The sale always includes cherry trees and those will be $10.
"We have Master Gardener-grown plants and then we augment them with commercially grown," she said.
The sale is a major fundraiser for the Master Gardener association and helps them fund programs for children, scholarships and grants for planting projects and landscaping for some Habitat properties, Stephens said.
The event also includes an "Ask A Master Gardener" booth, where people can get answers to questions about houseplants, landscaping, trees or shrubs. There also will be an educational display about butterfly gardens.
"We'll have the plants available that really attract monarchs and different varieties of butterflies," Stephens said. "Those plants can be tough to find."
The sale will run from noon-5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday at the State Farmers Market, 2055 Eisenhower Parkway.
The Cortona Trio: The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings will close out its Fabian Concert Series with this performance of Brahms' Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 25.
The Cortona Trio features Center for Strings director Amy Schwartz Moretti on violin, center cello chair Julie Albers and center piano chair Elizabeth Pridgen. They will be joined by Rebecca Albers on the violin.
The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fickling Hall in the McCorkle Music Building on Mercer University's campus. The performance is free for students or with a Mercer ID. For all others, tickets are $12 and can be purchased by calling 478-301-5470.