You can have parties, personalities, parades, pancakes and pink poodles — and the Cherry Blossom Festival has all that — but people still will ask about the trees.
Are they blooming? Are we there yet? Is that a Yoshi-yes or a Yoshi-no?
Possibly. Maybe. Hopefully.
Stacy Moore’s fingers are crossed.
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There are no guarantees that Macon’s Yoshino cherry trees will bloom on cue for the “Pinkest Party on Earth.’’ March is a psycho month for trying to plan a festival.
It is the most unpredictable meteorological four weeks on the calendar. Wind. Rain. Warm stretches. Cold snaps. Pollen surges. In the spring, Macon’s weather changes every 15 minutes.
But Stacy, in her third year as president and CEO of the festival, is cautiously optimistic. The 37th annual festival begins on Friday, wedged between the first day of spring on Wednesday, and the date set aside to honor the late William Fickling Sr., who gave away thousands of cherry trees in his lifetime. His March 23 birthday is the traditional benchmark for when the pink petals are supposed to come out to play.
Last weekend, folks began sending Stacy photographs of blossoms in their yards. Could this be a banner year, a bumper crop?
“The rain and the warming temperatures helped them go ahead and do what we call ‘pop,’ ’’ she said. “They pop like popcorn when they bloom.’’
Bring on Orville Redenbacher as grand marshal of the parade, if you must. No one wants the Macon Pops, scheduled for the finale on the last weekend, to be the only “pops’’ in town.
Last year could have been known as the Barely Blossom Festival.
“Cold and rainy,’’ Stacy said. “The trees didn’t bloom. There was a hard, cold snap the week leading into the festival. They had started blooming, and it froze them off. They literally just fell to the ground. There was nothing.’’
This year, anyone in the world can take a sneak peek at the blossoms. There is a “Bloom Cam” on the campus of Wesleyan College, available for viewing through the maconga.org website.
“It’s like April the Giraffe having her baby,’’ Stacy said, laughing. “We have a Bloom Cam.’’
Stacy grew up in Macon County, not Macon. Folks in Montezuma didn’t always venture this way to visit the cherry blossom capital of the universe.
That changed when she was a student at Mercer. She and her friends loved packing as many events as they could into the 10-day festival. Her sorority, Phi Mu, was involved in many of the festival’s philanthropy projects.
It was 20 years ago this year when she met festival founder Carolyn Crayton. Stacy was an intern with the Macon Whoopees hockey team. During the 1999 festival, the street party fell on the same day as a home game against Columbus.
The Whoopees, who had one of the great sports nicknames of all time, switched names for a day and became the Macon Cherry Blossoms. Crayton dropped the ceremonial puck – pink, of course – to start the game, and the players wore white sweaters (jerseys) with pink letters and numbers.
Stacy came up with the signature slogan, “The Pinkest Party on Earth,’’ while serving as marketing director from 2010-12. In the board room at the festival headquarters on Cherry Street, she stood at the white board with a marker and began to brainstorm ways to “brand” the festival instead of “re-theming” it every spring.
“Everybody started blurting out words,’’ she said. “We were trying to come up with something fun and unique. I love alliteration. They kept going back to the Pinkest Party on the Planet, but I said no. I didn’t like planet. I told them let’s go with earth.’’
She pitched the concept to local artist Mark Ballard, who created a poster of the earth wearing a party hat.
The party was on.
“Those first two years I bet I said it about a billion times,’’ she said.
This year, it could almost be re-phrased as the pinkest “Parky” on earth. Central City Park will become the entertainment hub of the festival. There promises to be something for everyone, and everything for some.
Many of the dilapidated buildings and other eyesores have been torn down in recent years, leaving just the historic Round Building. The makeover opened up more green space and presented festival organizers with both a challenge and an opportunity.
Since there was no longer indoor space for the vendors, they were shifted to the Mulberry Street Arts & Crafts Festival for the final weekend. Now, there is more elbow room at the park for rides, musical performances and other events. This year, the marquee attractions will be an “ice” skating rink (it’s plexiglass, not ice), a high-dive show (with the performers dressed as penguins) and a renowned hypnotist, Catherine Hickland, if you want to be spellbound.
The biggest headliner is the decision to move the Street Party to Central City Park.
Now, if only the blossoms are party poppers, not poopers.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.