In its 35th year of hosting the “pinkest party on earth,” the Cherry Blossom Festival has expanded its sphere of influence and has tongues wagging because of a marketing strategy that includes partnering with nonprofit organizations to make the festival more inclusive than ever.
For years, front lawns were adorned with wooden cut outs of pink poodles that could be purchased from the CBF and used again each March to herald the return of the wispy pink blossoms and Macon’s festival celebrating Yoshino cherry trees.
This year marked the launch of the first CBF-sanctioned Pink Poodle Parade, a display of hand-decorated dogs with the signature fluffy hairdo, pompom feet and a jaunty nose. Area artists, and anyone interested in decorating one of the poodles, were asked to have their entries completed in January to join the party on First Friday in February when the newly designed 2017 mascot poodle was debuted at The 567 Center for Renewal on First Street.
There were 26 entries accepted for the parade on Feb. 3 and for the competition to pick the three winners, or Top Dogs, through online voting from Feb. 13-17. All of the poodles on display were for sale for $75 each; issues of the limited edition mascot poodle were available for $50. The parading poodles, including the ones that are sold, will remain on display in the gallery until the end of February.
Each of the participating artists have other paintings in the 567 gallery, accompanied by biographies, to familiarize patrons with their work, outside of the whimsy of painting virtual pink dogs. Melissa Greggory’s framed painting of Macon’s famous cherry trees could be appreciated year round in a garden room; her “Sweet Melissa” themed poodle, with hot air balloons heralding the festival’s 35th anniversary, garnered third prize in the competition.
“Under the Glow,” Alan Bray’s entry for top dog status, also reflects the popularity of the balloon event, but with a clever twist. Bray’s colorful balloons, the silhouetted couple in the foreground and the surrounding street lights are illuminated in the soft glow of dusk with a special battery-operated rig imbedded in the back of the dog’s form. The judges were impressed enough to bestow the second place ribbon on Bray’s painted poodle.
It is difficult to find another painter in our town who embodies the spirit of Macon’s evolution — from a slumbering Southern city with a derelict downtown, to a beehive of activity in business and in the arts — more than Martha Tisdale. She has taught art in the school system, handled outside sales for the family sign business, pursued advanced degrees in her field and is still — despite her protests to the contrary that she really is retired — hard at work honing her skills at the easel.
“Third Street Park,” Tisdale’s theme for her poodle, is the quintessential scene of a little girl shyly petting the famous dyed, pink poodle, Blossom, in the downtown park, a hub of activity for the entire festival. For capturing the essence of the festival, Tisdale’s poodle project won the first place ribbon.
Macon themes boost sales of poodles
The Think Pink committee and Kari Waltz, coordinator for the Poodle Parade, succeeded in bringing the best talent to the competition, a variety of themes that showcased Macon’s history, its musical heritage and the fan support for Mercer University athletics.
Bren Powell’s encaustic, “I’m a Dog, But I Like Bears,” and Dianna McClarnon’s “Go Bears” paid homage to the home team; Ginny Atkins’ “Macon History Word Poodle” recounted the significant events in the city’s colorful past. Linda Graves’ “Little Richard Poodleman” was an obvious and humorous nod to the famous Little Richard, whom Macon claims as a native son; while, on a more classical note, Terri Seigel used playbills from the Grand Opera House to decorate “The Opera House Poodle,” selected as the Think Pink committee choice.
Susan Anglen’s biography made us take a closer look at her entry, “Miss Anna,” a prissy poodle with ridiculously long eyelashes and full of smug attitude. The delicate pink flowers that serve as hair and decorations for her paws are handmade and painted by the artist, as are the flowered skirt and calling card embellished with intricately designed butterflies. Anglen is legally blind, a disability which she says only intensifies her search for new methods to pursue her painting and design.
Patrons at the First Friday opening and during the voting period have enthusiastically snapped up the poodles to use in their window displays during the Cherry Blossom Festival. There are a lot of SOLD signs on the dogs that will greet customers this year and were made, by the artists, to last for years to come.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is right around the corner!