Mark Ballard

The color pink has been great for Macon

Mark Ballard will be taking the stage to emcee a humorous roast and toast of Carolyn Crayton.
Mark Ballard will be taking the stage to emcee a humorous roast and toast of Carolyn Crayton. Special to The Telegraph

Inspired by the cherry blossoms starting to pop open like pale pink popcorn, my mind has turned to all things pink. As an artist, I’m comfortable using all colors in my creations, but most of my adult life during the month of March, I reached for any shade of pink I could. The color pink was what I needed to create every kind of portrait I could of our famous cherry blossoms.

The large china cabinet in our dining room has always been happy to keep many of my cherry blossom creations out of harm’s way. The other day, I took a notion to visit with them, so I pulled up a chair in front of the cabinet and started to check out the contents of one of the bottom drawers. As it slowly glided open, over 30 years of pink-tinged memories emerged and were happy to see the light of day.

Porcelain Cherry Blossom Festival plates were neatly stacked in rows. I smiled as I saw them while my mind started traveling straight down Cherry Tree Lane. I picked one of the plates up and immediately remembered the design process, although I had to flip it over to discover what year I created it. After counting them, I discovered eight different plate designs I did spanning a period from the mid-1980s into the early 2000s. I paused for a moment to take it all in.

Some of the plates had birds while others featured butterflies and bees. A robin’s nest took center stage on one while the globe caught my attention on another. But, there was no doubt that the cherry blossoms were always the stars. Plate after plate ushered me back in time. Fluffy pink memories filled my mind and dining room. I decided to set the table using some of my pink-themed creations.

My memories finally dropped me off on Cherry Street all the way back in 1984. I was a 23-year-old husband and father not long out of art school in Atlanta with plans for my family and me to relocate back to Macon. I had heard talk of the start of a Cherry Blossom Festival and not far behind was another name. A name that belonged to the mastermind behind the newly developing festival. The name was Carolyn Crayton and I knew I had to meet her.

As destiny would have it, our meeting would turn into a long friendship. From when I first met Carolyn until today, I’ve worked for, with and beside her using my talents to help create the art and bolster the souvenir program. Carolyn sent me on missions to acquire funding for the artwork I was designing. I was a young man on a pink mission that involved retrieving green money.

With Carolyn at the helm, a small group of people worked long, hard hours to build an incredible festival. We experienced happy times and some that were a little sad. Sometimes, we were so frustrated we didn’t know what to do while other times we jumped with joy as Team Pink reaped the benefits of our labors. Everything was not always pretty in pink, but Carolyn never swayed from the theme for the festival — Love, Beauty and International Friendship.

On March 23, I’m honored to take the stage to emcee a roast and toast of Carolyn. I’ve enlisted the help of other people who have their own stories to tell about her. We’ll poke a little fun at the pink lady and celebrate the wonderful gifts she has shared with us and the world.

The show begins at 6 p.m. at Anderson Conference Center. A $40 admission includes dinner and an evening of fun! Go to https://cherryblossom.com/tickets/ or call 478-330-7050.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email mark@markballard.com; follow him at instagram.com/mark creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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