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Plenty of fun, no protests at festival fashion show

Anyone who showed up at the City Auditorium expecting a controversy ended up with a fashion show instead.

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival fashion show went off without a hitch Thursday as dozens of celebrity models showed off a variety of outfits from boutiques across Macon. The “Mad Tea Party”-themed event drew about 500 people.

“I had a fun, good time,” said festival co-founder Carolyn Crayton, herself one of the models. “I heard so much laughter. Everybody had a great time.”

There were rumblings of controversy earlier this week when the festival confirmed that Adam Braswell, a local drag queen who performs at downtown venues as Deonna Sage, would be one of the models. Radio talk-show host Chris Krok criticized the festival and the show organizer, The SoChi Cos., for making Sage part of the event.

But when Sage appeared on the catwalk in a gown during the latter part of the show, the performer received some of the most enthusiastic cheers of the day.

“We definitely felt like we were under more of a microscope,” said SoChi owner Terrell Sandefur. “But it didn’t steer us away from our mission. She has gotten threats, but I’m proud of her. I’m proud of everybody who was part of it.”

Stacy Campbell, the festival’s marketing director, said a few people asked for refunds before the show, but all of those tickets were re-sold. “We had a waiting list” for tickets, she said.

Sage said the remarks on the radio were irksome at first.

“It didn’t make me nervous so much as angry,” Sage said. “But after a while I thought that people are entitled to their own opinion. It was instant gratification to hear (the cheering). ... It was an honor to be a part of it.”

The crowd let out early oohs and aahs when fire performer Jimmy Cushingham opened the show with a dazzling display of spinning objects set ablaze. Dele Reichert, the wife of Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, led off the second part of the show by riding up to the stage on the back of a Macon police motorcycle.

“It was great, a lot of fun,” she said. “It was like a big dress-up party. It was great of the police to do that for us.”

She noted with a chuckle that some of the older women in the audience had to ask which model was in drag.

The show went through five segments, featuring representatives from The Telegraph, as well as TV and radio stations and other residents. The final segment was “The Mad Tea Party” from the book “Alice In Wonderland,” featuring performers in “Alice”-styled costumes. The stage was lined with tea cups and props designed to look like cakes.

Most of those in attendance gave a thumbs up.

Dot Howell of Macon, who said she’s been to several of the shows, wasn’t pleased with the bottleneck of people trying to get in when the doors opened. The show itself, she said, was fun. “There wasn’t a lot for our age. It was for younger people,” she said. “I thought the models were pretty and the dresses were nice.”

It was Laura McMaster’s first festival fashion show. “They had a real diverse group of models,” she said. “I’m surprised at how well-attended it is.”

Sandefur, who was producing the show for the first time, said he was pleased.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” he said. “We accomplished something big and managed to maintain our inclusivity.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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