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35th International Cherry Blossom festival includes lawsuit and search for new president and CEO

People+in+costumes+make+their+way+down+to+Cherry+Street+during+last+year%E2%80%99s+Cherry+Blossom+parade.
People in costumes make their way down to Cherry Street during last year’s Cherry Blossom parade.

People in costumes make their way down to Cherry Street during last year’s Cherry Blossom parade.

Katie Atkinson

Katie Atkinson

People in costumes make their way down to Cherry Street during last year’s Cherry Blossom parade.

Rose Scoggins, Staff Writer

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The International Cherry Blossom Festival will celebrate 35 years of tradition March 24 through April 2 while at the same time facing a lawsuit from Jake Ferro, former festival president and CEO.

Ferro, who was asked to resign from his position with the Festival in September 2016, filed the lawsuit on March 3, according to an article by The Telegraph.

He is “seeking more than $2 million and reinstatement to his position, alleging he was wrongfully fired and that his reputation was disparaged by false statements,” according to the article.

The lawsuit against the upcoming Festival is not the only news it has had recently. One day after publishing their story on the lawsuit, The Telegraph published a story on March 9 that the Festival was beginning a search for a new president and CEO.

After asking for Ferro’s resignation in September, the Festival announced that Thomas Wicker would be the interim president and CEO, according to an article published by The Cluster.

According to the March 9 article by The Telegraph, Wicker’s last day of being interim president will be April 28.

Since he was named interim president of the Festival in September, this year’s Festival will be Wicker’s first and last as president and CEO.

The festival, which was started in 1982, has blossomed like the over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees into a popping display of spring color and culture.

Because of the extravagant pink color of the cherry blossoms, the International Cherry Blossom Festival has been nicknamed “the Pinkest Party on Earth.”

“Producing the Pinkest Party on Earth is a thrill and a passion for our Board of Directors as well as our staff,” said Don Bailey, 2017 International Cherry Blossom Festival chairman, in an email. “The street party is returning to our lineup this year, and the level of entertainment for the event has created quite a buzz.”

The street party is a daytime concert that will begin at 3 p.m., April 1 in downtown Macon, according to the Festival website. The street party will feature different local and regional artists for $20 advance tickets or $25 day of event tickets.

Along with the street party, featured events of the 2017 festival include the Woodruff House tour, a gospel extravaganza, the cherry blossom gala, the annual parade and music events from several local and regional artists.

The full schedule of events for the festival can be found at: www.cherryblossom.com/events/

Tickets for the street part and other featured events that require tickets can be purchased at www.cherryblossom.com/tickets/.

Tickets can also be purchased through a new addition to the International Cherry Blossom Festival — an app for festival attendees.

The app was created to help the attendees “stay up to date with the latest news and information available, have the schedule of events at [their] fingertips, and navigate the events properly,” said Stacy Campbell, vice president of the International Cherry Blossom Festival.

The app is available to both Apple and Android cell phone users, Campbell said. To download the app, search for Cherry Blossom Festival on the appropriate app store.

Editor’s Note: After the print publication of this story on March 16, the Cherry Blossom Festival selected Stacey Campbell as the new CEO for the festival. Read more about her experience with the Cherry Blossom Festival here

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35th International Cherry Blossom festival includes lawsuit and search for new president and CEO