Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off at noon

The Cherry Blossom Festival may have a new leader, but the festival itself will remain pretty familiar.

Karen Lambert, the festival’s new president and CEO, will be cutting the pink ribbons with other officials at noon today at Central City Park, kicking off the 2010 version of the festival.

Lambert was hired in October, with much of the festival already planned. She said she hasn’t added new events to this year’s festival, but there have been tweaks to some of the familiar events, such as venue changes for the Cherry Blossom Balloon Glow — which moved this year to Macon State College after access problems to last year’s site — and moving the fashion show to the City Auditorium.

“Things were already in motion when I started,” Lambert said. “A lot of the plans had already been made. A lot had already been done in October, thankfully.”

Lambert said she’s going to be watching this year’s festival closely and hopes to solicit as much feedback as she can.

“I want to look at it carefully and get feedback from participants,” she said. “I want to see what should be added or changed. I want us all to be together on that process. There’s a focus group that’s going to go to as many events as it can.”

Lambert said organizers are trying to attract as wide an audience as possible.

“It’s part of the evaluation process,” she said. “We do want to attract a younger crowd. ... We want to attract the 20-somethings and the retirees. We do want to hear from all kinds of people.”

One thing Lambert is working on this year is creating new partnerships for the festival, as well as promoting the festival at other times of the year. She pointed to the Cherry Blossom Ball Drop, in which the festival partnered with NewTown Macon for a New Year’s Eve event, as an example.

“We’re looking to form a lot of partnerships in town or expand on current ones,” she said. “We’d like to expand to other parts of the year. We’d like to do a fall event. ... It wouldn’t be another 10-day festival. It might be a Saturday (event). It might be a weekend.”

Lambert said tonight’s Diamond Ball was an example of how some of the festival’s traditional events have been tweaked. In addition to the dance, there will be a drawing for a 1-carat diamond.

“It’s just one of many changes this year,” she said. “We’re adding a lot of fun components.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.