Ed Grisamore

Company’s coming … and they’re already here

2019 Cherry Blossom Festival officially opens at Central City Park

2019 Cherry Blossom Festival Chair Alex Habersham discusses this year's festival after cutting the ribbon during an opening ceremony Friday Central City Park.
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2019 Cherry Blossom Festival Chair Alex Habersham discusses this year's festival after cutting the ribbon during an opening ceremony Friday Central City Park.

During my bachelor years, I rented an apartment on the north side of Macon. I was 22 years old, so the decor was decidedly post-college and pre-marriage. Most often, it was piles of laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes.

Cleaning day came and went, but mostly stayed away. I could blame some of it on 60-hour work weeks, the rest on general laziness. I was never in the running for the Good Housekeeping seal.

Once, when my mother called to say she was bringing my grandmother for a visit, I had to quickly spring into action. I plugged in the vacuum cleaner, wiped down the kitchen counters and dusted in the corners. (OK, maybe I didn’t dust the corners.)

I would have swept a few things under the rug, except it was wall-to-wall carpet. Gold shag carpet. Yuk. Makes me cringe thinking about it.

When my family walked through the door, one of my siblings blurted out: “Love My Carpet!’’ (They still make that stuff.) Everyone, including my grandmama, knew I had been doing some serious last-minute cleaning.

We all want our houses and yards to look their finest whenever we have guests. We want to make an impression. It can take hours, days and sometimes weeks to get ready for visitors.

Last month, Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful Commission began placing pink signs around the city in advance of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

“Company’s Coming,’’ the sign read. It was both a rally cry and wake-up call, a nudge to remind us the festival was on its way.

Make your bed. Sweep the porch. Take out the trash. When you see our city through the lens of a visitor, you might not notice every little detail about what it right. But you certainly will know it if it’s not right.

By the time many of you read this, the festival already will be under way. The Yoshino cherry trees are cooperating. I’ve always said Macon in the springtime is one of the prettiest places on earth, and she seldom fails to disappoint me.

The festival is the city’s signature event. It draws more people from more places to more attractions than anything on the calendar.

Some visitors began arriving early, so it was good timing on the part of the trees that they began blooming a week ahead of schedule.

Pam Carswell, president and CEO of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, noticed two tour buses making the rounds earlier this week, one of them from Canada.

Pam leads an organization that invests time, money and other resources into making certain the city puts on its best face for the festival.

It’s not so much about making Macon beautiful. It’s keeping it beautiful. That’s the challenge. And the opportunity.

KMBBC isn’t a glorified clean-up crew or work detail with trash bags and long-handled sticks and prongs.

“We are about behavioral change, changing the way people think,’’ Pam said. “A lot of times people think it’s our responsibility just to be out there picking up.’’

The mission statement is threefold: litter prevention, recycling and beautification. They all work hand-in-hand, just as it takes a village – government, private businesses, schools, neighborhoods and community groups — to join together to make it happen. Educating the public, and creating good habits, are always a good place to start.

Sometimes, it can begin with an individual. Among the best examples I know is Mayor Robert Reichert. I remember strolling down the sidewalk with him one morning , and he stopped several times to pick up trash. He wasn’t showboating for the press. It was the way he was raised.

The KMBBC has a dedicated work force of more than 4,000 volunteers. Many projects are on-going. Others lead up to an event, such as the festival, which requires weeks and months of strategic planning and organization. KMBBC volunteers have had volunteers picking up litter, grooming the city’s gateways and policing everything from parks to parking lots.

Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful was founded 45 years ago this month by Carolyn Crayton, who used it as a springboard to give birth to the festival in 1982. The KMBBC provided the framework, foundation and impressive volunteer network for all things cherry.

Looking ahead, Macon will participate in the “Great American Clean-Up” on Saturday, April 13. It’s an effort to encourage neighborhoods to create groups to get started. Many schools and businesses already have adopted sections of road and routinely pick up cups, bottles, bags and wrappers.

I can’t imagine why people still litter, but they do. If you’ve ever seen someone throw trash out of a vehicle, now is your chance to do something about it besides cursing them under your breath. The KMBBC has established a “Litter Bug Hotline.’’ You can anonymously report a tag number and give a description of the vehicle. The KMBBC turns the information over to the sheriff’s department. And it’s working. Pam said there have been no repeat offenders since the program started more than a year ago.

The idea came from the success of Crimestoppers. Pam said a community in Florida uses cameras to catch violators, much the same way some cities uses similar technology to nab motorists who run red lights. If Macon can find a way to fund it, that could be on the horizon.

Maybe some of this will inspire you to tidy up your little corner of the world. If everyone did, the place would be spotless. We would never have to hurry to clean up for grandma.

Company’s not only coming, it’s already here.

Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.