Lambert to lead Cherry Blossom Festival

On a sidewalk sprinkled with pinkish rose petals in front of its downtown headquarters, the Cherry Blossom Festival on Thursday introduced its new president and CEO.

Karen Jordan Lambert, in a pink jacket, stood before a podium at the corner of Cherry and New streets and said she has “never faced a more exciting prospect” than the role she has landed as the blossom boss.

The festival began its search for a new leader in June after interim president Jim Davis, who filled in after Wright Tilley’s resignation last year, stepped down.

In 2007, the festival lost about $35,000 and, a year later, rainy weather during the festival contributed to an estimated $140,000 loss. Davis has been credited with helping reverse the festival’s fortunes this past spring and turn a reported net profit of roughly $20,000.

About two months ago, after festival officials began their nationwide hunt for a new leader, more than 80 people from 15 states applied.

“One candidate quickly became our unanimous choice. Her presentation was professional and her knowledge of Macon substantial,” Cherry Blossom Festival board of directors chairman Steve Jukes said of Lambert, who for the past decade has served as executive director of the Grand Opera House. “She is an accomplished fundraiser, and she knows how to build community and corporate support.”

Lambert, a 52-year-old Southwest High School graduate, begins work for the festival Oct. 5.

“We have a magnificent past and will build on the great contributions and the past experiences of the legendary work of (festival founder) Carolyn Crayton,” Lambert said. “But with the help of volunteers and the community of new voices that will be brought in, we’ll have an even more promising and brighter future. We’re gonna reach for the stars, and we’ll achieve new heights of success.”

Lambert, the daughter of Peyton Anderson Foundation executive director Juanita Jordan, later called her selection “a banner moment in my life.”

“I have tremendous respect for Carolyn and what she has built with the help of the boards and the volunteers,” Lambert said. “It’s a great past to build on, and I’m convinced that we can build on that past, bring some new ideas, some new talent and create new things that will take us into the future.”

Festival officials said Lambert’s ties to the city and her familiarity with the nearly 30-year-old springtime rite helped her win the job.

“This is my home. ... And I love the community and I have loved the festival for years and years,” Lambert, a Mercer University alumna, said.

Crayton, who was on hand for Thursday’s announcement, said, “Karen is not only a great fundraiser, but she’s a wonderful, fun person. ... I have followed her terrific work at the Grand Opera House, and I know without a doubt she’s going to do a wonderful job for the festival.”

Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.