The first day of spring this year was welcomed by the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World with a namesake festival: the International Cherry Blossom Festival. With attractions ranging from food trucks to a petting zoo, Macon residents showed up both in the sun and in the rain to enjoy the traditional festival.

The festival was first started in 1982 by the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, after Yoshino cherry trees were discovered by Macon resident William Fickling Sr. Struck by their beauty, he quickly began planting more in Macon, which drew the eye of Carolyn Crayton, who was executive director for the commission at the time. It was Crayton’s idea to host the festival to both celebrate the beauty of the trees and also to honor Fickling for his donations of approximately 500 trees alongside Wesleyan Woods, Guerry Drive and Oxford Road.

In the thirty years that have passed, the event has become one of the Top 20 Events in the South and one of  the Top 50 in the U.S., according to the official web page of the festival. Spanning 10 days, the festival draws people from all over to celebrate the Yoshino Cherry Tree.

The Fickling Family Foundation has also contributed to the number of cherry trees, which now number over 300,000.

Those who have been to the festival before know that there are attractions for all ages. Festivities started as early as 7 a.m., when the Macon-Bibb Fire Department served pink pancakes for early risers. On the second  Saturday and Sunday, Mulberry Street was lined with booths of both local and out-of-town vendors looking to sell their wares at the Mulberry Street Arts and Crafts Festival.

A free petting zoo and camel rides offered animal entertainment for the children, as well as rides, provided by Drew Exposition.

Blue Ridge Helicopter Rides offered participants a tour over the “Pinkest Park on Earth,” the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds and other Macon sites.

Each day also had its own special entertainment, such as the 2nd Annual Varsity Cruise In on March 22, which allowed car fanatics to show off their classic car at Sid’s Sandwich Shop. Greg Glenn, a sand sculptor, worked on-site with open viewing for the festival, and each night promised a different band playing in the Central City Park on the Coca-Cola Entertainment Stage.

No matter which day it was, there was always something to do, and most of it was even free. There were plenty of opportunities to spend money, though, both at the arts and crafts festivals and the Shop at the Park, which offered everything from jewelry to cook wear and even a little pet called the Sugar Bear, a marsupial that is a tiny cousin of the Kangaroo.

The Cherry Blossom Festival also crowned their own Queen and Princesses, who serve as the ambassadors for the festival and Macon. They appear at official festival events throughout the year and also receive scholarships for their work.

A festival that lacks foot-stomping, hip-swinging music lacks people who want to attend.

Thankfully, the International Cherry Blossom Festival, the pinkest party around, celebrated Macon’s local commodity of the Yoshino cherry tree with no shortage of musical entertainment.

One of the highly anticipated performances was the Matsuriza Taiko Drummers, a traditional Japanese drumming group who travel around to various festivals in the southeast but also call Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., their more permanent home.

Matsuriza Taiko drummers combine fast-paced, almost mesmerizing sequences of drum thrumming with highly choreographed strings of back-and-forth rhythm-producing beats.

For those who preferred a more relaxed setting, the festival offered organ concerts on weekdays at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Arguably the most anticipated event for this year’s festival was the Wild Wing Cafe Cherry Blossom Concert Crawl that replaced the Cherry Blossom Street Party of years past.

In true (pub) crawl fashion, a pink wristband for $20 at the door, or $15 presale, allowed entrance to all the musical hot spots for the evening, while a less expensive blue wristband permitted entrance to only one location.

Venues sprawled all over downtown from Third Street Park, to Cox Capitol Theatre and Crazy Bull on Second Street, to the numerous hot spots on Cherry Street, including the 567 Center for Renewal, Theater Macon, the Hummingbird Bar and Taproom, the Wall and Fowl Play.

Although the event extended throughout the evening of Saturday, March 29, most of the party did not kick into full swing until about 7 p.m.

Sarah Harrell from Savannah was in town visiting her sister when the pair decided to visit the free party held at Third Street Park and listen to musical covers performed by the band One Horse Parade.

She said that although Savannah has a music festival, it does not quite rival the communal feel and good times enjoyed at the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Students showed up to support Mercer University’s own Bootz & Katz at the Wall around 9:30 p.m., and the talk of most “crawlers” was the Drivin’ N Cryin’ show at 11 p.m. at the Hummingbird.

At the Cox Theatre, though, a different atmosphere clinged to the air. People gamboled about on the dance floor, enjoying the modern contortions and raspy harmonies of the southern rock group from South Carolina, Cranford Hollow, who showcased the uncommonality of a violin player and feature a local bass player from Milledgeville, Ga.

Jimmy Monk, a gentleman from Warner Robins who attended the shows at the Cox Theatre with his girlfriend and friends from Hawkinsville, Ga., said he enjoyed the distinctness of the violin player.

“My girlfriend’s mother was a violin player,” he said as he pointed behind him to where his girlfriend was standing. “They [Cranford Hollow] have an Irish sound to them. They’re great,” Monk said about the band.

Many had mixed reviews about whether the concert crawl was an overall better event than the formerly held street party, but the majority of attendees were first-time, newcomers to the Cherry Blossom Festival altogether, like Orange County, Calif., resident Darlene Catuara who was listening to the Roadkill Ghost Choir at the Hummingbird with her high school friend Cathy.

They came to check out a few bands but ended up really savoring the acts. Catuara called the atmosphere of the festival lovely, creating fun for all ages and giving the whole community a chance to come together. In her eyes, Macon contrasted very favorably to the “stuffiness of the people in Orange County.”

Still want to experience the musical excitement of the Cherry Blossom Festival and afraid that you’ve missed out until next year? Never fear! Two more opportunities to enjoy music brought to the public by the Cherry Blossom Festival are right around the corner.

The World Music Program featuring the Mercer University Children’s Choir, which gives students the opportunity to develop their talents at a young age with Townsend School of Music faculty and staff, will be performing at the Historic Douglass Theatre on April 6 at 3 p.m. Admission is free with pin or $10 otherwise.

Kicking off Friday, March 21, Macon’s 32nd Annual Cherry Blossom Festival offered a wide variety of activities that featured some of Macon’s classic landmarks and once-in-a-lifetime experiences and sights.

Held throughout the entire Cherry Blossom Festival, March 21 through March 30, was Ocmulgee National Monument’s Lantern Light Tours. With a choice for a guided or self-guided trip through the expanse of the historic Indian mounds, visitors had an opportunity to gaze at the city of Macon all lit up and aglow at night. The tour totals a one-mile candlelit walk along a designated lantern lighted trail. Even Cherry Blossom Festival dignitaries visited the mounds for the tour one weekend evening.

Jim David, the superintendent of Ocmulgee National Monument, said that the lantern tour hosted by the park is among some of the longest associated Cherry Blossom Festival events. “The second or third year [of the Cherry Blossom Festival], the park started doing the lantern light tours but with lit torches,” said David. With fire hazards and increased danger, the park moved to candle lanterns.

Not only is it a special experience to walk the park with lanterns, but also at night.

“The night sky view is quite nice looking into downtown,” David said.

As the business manager at Ocmulgee National Monument Association, Lisa Lemon was one of the main coordinators of the event.

“We have tours all year long, but we do this specifically for Cherry Blossom to get people who haven’t been out here who are local, or those who are coming from out of town, to experience Ocmulgee at night,” she said.

When describing the experience of the tour, she calls it spiritual. “It’s quiet, and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” while still being so close to downtown Macon, Lemon said.

Along with the Ocmulgee tours, artist Greg Glenn’s sand sculptures were shown free to the public throughout the festival. Using over 25 tons of sand, Glenn created the pieces from March 21 through March 23 with visitors watching him as he worked. For the rest of the festival, attendees gawked and took photographs of his massive sand creations.

The Blue Ridge Helicopter rides allowed for a view of the whole city. At only $35 per person, the aerial tour of Macon featured such local landmarks as the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds, downtown and more. These rides ran throughout the duration of the festival, allowing riders to watch the Cherry Blossom activities from the sky.

Camels travelled to Macon for the duration of the festival to give rides for only $7. Every day at 11 a.m., the camels were available to give rides to all visitors, even children. These camels were provided by Carolina Camel Rides and sponsored by Jackson Automotive.wAdditionally, a petting zoo in Central City Park continued throughout the festival. With free admission, the petting zoo was open from 11 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. daily, and visitors were able to see all kinds of animals, including llamas, goats, and donkeys.

From 6 to 7 p.m. at Riverside Cemetery and Conservancy, visitors could take a Spring Spirit Stroll in the dusk of night. For only $10 per person, actors in costume assumed the roles of many famous veterans, educators, religious leaders and well-known members of Macon families. The purpose was to educate visitors or local residents of the stories, lives, and accomplishments of some of the individuals buried there. The Spring Spirit Stroll is a close kin to the Conservancy’s Spirits in October, albeit the latter hosts a spookier atmosphere.

Some of the other sights included the Cherry Blossom Bed Race. Judging was divided into four different categories: Most Original Bed Design, Funniest Bed, Judges Choice award and Fastest Bed. As a classic part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, it is always a sight to see beds speeding down Cherry Street.

While all these events have already occurred, the Magnolia Street Soapbox Derby will continue past the closing of the festival. Still associated with the Cherry Blossom Festival’s events, the derby will be held April 12 at 12 p.m. Teams will compete in all kinds of crazy custom race cars, usually hand-made, and there will be live music, food trucks, and other exciting activities. This event is free to the public and will start at Washington Park on Magnolia Street.

Among all of the amazing events that Macon’s most famous festival features, these events include some of the most unbelievable sights. For more information about Cherry Blossom Festival and its events, visit Macon’s official Cherry Blossom Festival homepage at www.cherryblossom.com.

The Cherry Blossom Festival is a time of year where Macon brings in the springtime and comes together. Locals of Macon mingle with tourists during the festival and embrace the “weird” spirit Macon can sometimes have.

Parts of the festival this year included camel rides, high heel races, semitruck-pulling contests and more.

The 7th Annual PULL for the House was a sponsored event where teams of sponsors would work together to pull a semitruck a certain distance. Their goal was to find out how fast their team could move the semitruck. The event benefitted the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Georgia. Some of the sponsors who teamed up to pull the semitruck were Auto Air of Macon, Conditioned Air, Inc., and Central Georgia Technical College.

Another particularly strange event focused on running in high heels, a hard feat for anyone to accomplish.

On March 22, men, women and children ran down Cherry Street donning high heels of various shapes and colors. Individuals participated in the annual High Heels for the Cure Fun Run as part of Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival and in support of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Individuals made a donation of $10 to participate in the fun run.

“You don’t have to wear pink high heels, but you do have to wear two-inch heels. It’s just kind of really grown over the years, and we have lots of guys in pink tutus and pink high heels, and we have spray paint there if anyone wants to spray their shoes. The kids don’t have to wear high heels. They can wear tennis shoes and participate to win our kid prizes,” said the executive director of the Susan G. Komen Central Georgia Affiliate, Emily Bowden.

While the kids who participated were not required to wear heels, several opted to do so. The crowd was thrilled to see women race quickly down the street but laughed and cheered even more as they watched the men wearing dresses, skirts, tutus and stilettos wobble through the fun run.

“It was hilarious! It is my first time coming, and my favorite has to be the guy that was winning,” said Carrie Dowell who was a first time spectator of the race.

The man that was winning in the men’s race was a first time participant and wore some of the highest heels at the race.

“I thought it was great. It was hilarious. I love these Macon traditions. I don’t know if I would ever do anything crazy like that though,” said Joshua Roberts, a spectator.

Chuck Marks was a first-time participant who was laughing at the aftermath of the race. “My brother-in-law got me to do it! I’ve never done it before, but I would definitely do it again. As long as I don’t break a hip, I’m definitely good,” said Marks.

“We were at the mall, and there was a store that had these stilettos on sale for $4.99, and I said, ‘BJ, they’re running a high heel race downtown, and it’s for the Susan G. Komen.’ And he said, ‘Well, we’ll go do it’,” said spectator and friend of several participants, Sheila Mitchel.

The money raised from participant’s donations goes towards providing free mammograms for women without insurance.

“We keep our money locally, so we can provide the mammograms for women who don’t have insurance. So 75 cents of every dollar stays right here in our eight counties that we serve and 25 cents goes to national research to find a cure,” said Bowden.

According to the website for Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival, Macon is home to over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees, and each March Macon hosts a 10-day festival to celebrate an overall theme of “Love, Beauty, and International Friendship.”

The festival originated when William A. Fickling Sr., a local Macon realtor, discovered the first Yoshino cherry tree in his backyard. The festival began in 1982 under the guidance of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission.

“[The Cherry Blossom Festival] asked us four years ago to participate because we are pink just like they are. We came up with the high heels event, so that it would be different from our race for the cure but would still be fun and pink,” said Bowden.


If you’ve never heard of slide guitar, and you happen to be a fan of blue-eyed soul, delta blues, roadhouse rock, southern boogie, Texas swing and gospel, then heading over to the Cox Capitol Theatre on Saturday, April 5, to listen to the smooth guitar stylings of Lee Roy Parnell is the perfect introduction to the genre.

Slide guitar, for those who don’t know, is a guitar-playing technique that involves sliding an object along the guitar strings to achieve particular pitches and vibrating length. Parnell utilizes the method of guitar playing to achieve a true bluesy ambience to his music.

“Lee Roy Parnell is part of a long line of Texas roots-music eclectics and is among the elite few who can be identified as a triple threat. An ace guitarist, as well as a distinctive singer and hit songwriter, his music runs the gamut of diversity,” said Lisa McClendon, executive director of the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House,

“Macon is extremely fortunate to bring such a talented musician to the Cox Theatre. He’s a real treat. He’s one of the best blues guitarists you’ll hear.”

McClendon is not alone in this assessment of Parnell’s unique talent.

Virtually as soon as he began his career as a blues and slide guitarist, Parnell achieved success.

He was signed with Polygram Music and had a featured spot at The Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tenn., shortly after he decided to make the move 27 years ago.

After two years with Polygram, he made the move to Arista Records under the direction of Tim Dubois.

His debut album was recorded in none other than the musical mecca, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, with Barry Beckett of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as the producer.

Parnell then moved on to sign with Vanguard and Universal South, and is currently working on what will be his first independently released album, as well as his very own music publishing company, Dean Parnell Music.

This concert, which is one of four events being held to benefit The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House, will feature not only Lee Roy Parnell, but the up-and-coming country music singer-songwriter Adam Hood.

Students can expect to hear from both Hood and Parnell a wide range of songs that come together to form a truly distinctive and comprehensive Southern sound.

The doors open at 7 p.m. with musical performances starting at 8 p.m.

General admission tickets range from $25 to $37.50 and can be purchased online at www.coxcapitoltheatre.com.

If you’re looking for a luxury listening experience, VIP Premiere table seating is also available with prices ranging from $500 to $1000 per table.

For more information regarding this event, including ticket details and table purchases, please call The Allman Brothers Band at The Big House at 478-741-5551, and dial ext. 1.

Two art exhibits this spring, one at the Cannonball House and one at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, center around the art of storytelling through quilts.

The quilts at each exhibit are handmade, and many of them are antiques that are at least 100 years old.

The quilts at the Cannonball House’s antique quilt exhibit were brought in by volunteers who have had these quilts in their families for generations.

Earl Colvin, director of the Cannonball House, said that in the past women used scrap materials from other projects to make quilts. Quilts were made from leftover dress materials and seed sacks.

“They used every scrap of material,” said Colvin.

Many of the quilts are beautiful and ornate, and Colvin said that the quilts served artistic as well as practical purposes.

One quilt in particular, located in a servant’s quarters, is called a crazy quilt. Crazy quilts were made with any and every leftover scrap material, no matter its shape. Unlike most quilts, they lack geometric patterns.

Crazy quilts often have embroidered symbols and pictures on them, which was a way for women, especially slaves and servants, to express themselves.

One of the symbols the quiltmaker embroidered onto the crazy quilt that is now on display is a heart shot through with an arrow, and another is an anchor. Colvin said these symbols on the servant’s crazy quilt indicate that she might have fallen in love, perhaps with a sailor.

“That’s kind of the way ladies would tell their stories,” said Colvin. Quilting was a practical art—an art that told a story while it kept you warm.

The antique quilt exhibit at the Cannonball House was on display during March, but the Museum of Arts and Sciences “Quilts, Textiles & Fibers” exhibit, which also features antique quilts, will be on display until May 18. The quilting part of the exhibit will be on display until May 11.

Many of the quilts at the museum’s exhibit were donated by Dr. Roy T. Ward.

Ward was a doctor in a rural Georgia town, and often his patients could not pay him with money.

Quilting “was the currency his patients sometimes gave for his services,” said Melanie Byas, director of marketing and communications for the museum.

The exhibit has many geometric quilts similar to the quilts at the Cannonball House, and it also features a couple crazy quilts.

Not all of the quilts at the exhibit are antiques.

Wini McQueen is a local fiber artist who created a “Family Tree Quilt” in 1987 for the museum. Using old family photographs which McQueen printed onto fabric, she created a quilt that tells the story of her family’s history.

“We have a nice collection of photos in my family, and I had done a few archive projects, and I realized it was so important to see photos,” said McQueen about the Family Tree Quilt.

McQueen also uses African symbols on her quilts as a way to tell the story of her heritage as an African-American woman.

“It was a really nice experience visiting ‘Family Tree’ for me because everybody in my family is dead. None of those people exist anymore, and so that was what I liked about that,” said McQueen. “But the path that quiltmaking took me to was biography, as well as subjects of my choice such as literacy.”

McQueen said that quiltmaking is tedious and time-consuming, so it is a difficult art to enjoy.

“But for me, it’s a very good pathway and opening into my cultural history as a person of African descent. And so much so, that my whole quilting effort came out of my interest in African textiles and how I thought they might have originated,” said McQueen.

McQueen loves telling stories, and quilting, as well as other textiles such as scarves and wraps, is the way she decided to tell stories.

McQueen’s quilts, as well as the museum’s other quilts, will be on display until May 11. Admission is $7 for students with a current ID.

If you are looking for great Thai food with a great atmosphere, look no further than Lemongrass Thai Bistro in downtown Macon.

Located at 442 Cherry St., Lemongrass offers a variety of options, including traditional Thai food with a modern twist, both everyday and unusual types of sushi, and handmade signature cocktails alongside an extensive selection of wines and craft brews. Additionally, Lemongrass specializes in making food vegetarian and vegan-friendly and can easily alter menu items to accommodate patrons with food allergies.

Upon entering Lemongrass, I immediately took in the cozy surroundings of the place. A limited number of tables gives the place an air of closeness, unlike many other restaurants found downtown.

Walking in the door I was greeted by Sarah, one of the servers. She quickly sat The Cluster photography editor, Elizabeth Tate, and I at one of the tables.

Our meal began with a teriyaki filet sushi roll featuring seared beef filet and asparagus. Served alongside was one of the restaurant’s more popular appetizers — pork cigars. This delightful appetizer consisted of pork sausage wrapped in a wonton wrapper and deep-fried to give an added crunchy texture. To finish up the first course, we were served a chicken satay that came with a sweet and spicy cucumber salad.

For my entree, I enjoyed the green curry with shrimp and a red pepper based spicy chicken and bell pepper stir-fry. As someone very familiar with Thai food and a personal fan of green curry, I can happily recommend either one of these delicious entrees. Green curry with shrimp was definitely an enjoyable twist on what I am used to, having normally enjoyed it with chicken or beef.

Finally, just as I thought I could not eat another bite, I was served Lemongrass’ signature Thai fried ice cream wrapped in a dough made from a secret recipe and fried just long enough to give it a warm, crunchy texture. This was the first time I had tried fried ice cream, and I can say it certainly won’t be the last. The ice cream was delicious, but it was the strange conflicting textures that brought a smile to my face with every bite.

Lemongrass Thai Bistro is open from 11 a.m to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays, and from noon to 1 a.m. on Saturdays.

Those looking to save money can take advantage of Lemongrass’ many specials throughout the week. During happy hour, the restaurant features $5 sushi and $3 sliders for dine-in patrons. On Monday nights, select beers are only $2. On Wednesday nights, bottles of wine are half off. Thursdays feature a date night special for $45 that includes a bottle of wine and a three-course dinner for two. Finally, a “Southern Brunch” is held every Saturday afternoon until 3 p.m.

A 72-year-old woman whom Marvin Defoor, better known as “Chief,” had never seen before pulled up to the abandoned liquor store where he was sitting and told him to get in the car.

Chief hadn’t bathed in a week, but the woman asked, “Do you need some help?”

“I said, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and she told me to get in [the car],” said Chief. “Who does that in this day and time? Who does that? Especially a woman at 72-years-old, too.”

Chief was homeless and had been addicted to methamphetamine for 26 years. At 50, he had been a meth addict for about half his life.

The woman bought him food and a hotel room and said she would be back.

“I thought she got me a room, so I could clean up. And I didn’t think I’d ever see her again,” said Chief. But when he went to check out of the hotel, there she was.

She brought him to Salvation Army.

After graduating from their recovery program, Chief was left wanting more, so he went to Macon Rescue Mission, now called Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia.

That was almost four years ago. Now, Chief has been clean from drugs for almost six years and is the Resident Manager at Rescue Mission.

“He’s our eyes and ears when we’re not here,” said Executive Director Erin Reimers. “When the staff’s not here, he’s in charge. We couldn’t do it without him.”

Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia is a long-term shelter for homeless men recovering from addictions or other difficult circumstances and for women who are victims of domestic abuse.

There are currently 36 men in the Men’s Recovery Program, plus Chief, which makes 37 men living at Rescue Mission.

The recovery program has three phases. Phase one lasts 90 days, and during that time the men get acclimated to living at Rescue Mission.

“They go to half a day of Bible study class and the other half-day they do work therapy,” said Reimers. The men work in the kitchens, clean the floors, cut the grass and work at the Bargain Center, which is Rescue Mission’s thrift store located on Napier Avenue.

“When they come in, we like to assess their likes [or skills],” said Reimers. “We not only use it as work therapy and teaching them good work ethic, but we use it as a job training as well.”

Reimers said that phase two is an intensive, six-month “Bible-based recovery.”

The men spend this time getting to the root of their problems and what caused them to become homeless, and then they work to repair those problems.

“We give them hope and we give them Jesus, and they can fix everything else from there—Jesus can fix everything else from there,” said Reimers.

The men are not allowed to have jobs during phases one and two, however, toward the end of phase two, the men begin looking for work and a permanent place to live.

“When they graduate at the end of phase two, if they don’t have a job, or they don’t have somewhere to go, they move to our phase three which is just transitional housing,” said Reimers. During phase three, the men get help creating resumes and working on interview skills. Reimers said the men can stay in transitional housing while they save money to pay for rent or utilities at a future home.

Rescue Mission “accepted me with open arms,” said Chief. “I began to enjoy helping the guys that come in here that are as lost as I was.”

The Dove Center is the six-to-nine-month counterpart program for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. Right now, Rescue Mission houses seven women and their children, which is the most it can house at one time.

“We have a waiting list anywhere from 25-35 women at any point in time, which is really on our hearts,” said Reimers. “When a woman is being abused and makes that decision to leave and call for help, she needs to be able to leave immediately.”

Rescue Mission is in the very early stages of planning an expansion that would allow it to house more men and women alike.

The women at the Dove Center go through Bible study classes like the men, but Reimers said the biggest part of the program is pattern changing class. “It is a long study program that teaches them that they don’t have to be abused. It’s acceptable to not have a man in their life,” said Reimers.

There are also nightly chapel services for the residents. “A big part of the program here is hope in Jesus,” said Reimers.

“God was the main one that I didn’t have in my life that I do have now, and that was due to this place. If it was left up to me, I’d still be without God in my life, and that’s scary for me to even sit here and say now,” said Chief.

Rescue Mission also serves those outside of its walls every day at 4 p.m. when it gives a hot dinner to anyone who needs one. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Rescue Mission hosts meals for anyone who is hungry. This year, Rescue Mission is hosting its first Easter meal as well.

Because Rescue Mission of Central Georgia’s main focus is hope in Jesus Christ, it does not receive government funding and operates entirely on donations and revenue from it’s Bargain Center.

“The revenue from that store is about 50 percent of our operating budget here, so without those donations, we couldn’t do what we do here,” said Reimers.

For more information about Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia or about volunteer opportunities, visit rescuemissionga.com. The Bargain Center, which accepts donations, is located at 3375 Napier Ave.

“Everybody here has contributed to my recovery,” said Chief. “I never thought I could come this far and I love it. I love being alive, clean and sober and being around people who really seem to love me.”

From 1959 to 1964 Marjorie Singly-Hall passed notes in study hall and ran up and down the stairs and hallways of A. L. Miller Senior High School. Many other students engaged in similar activities since the school’s establishment in 1932. Today, the school that was the academic home to girls of Bibb County is only a shadow of its once-thriving self.

The A. L. Miller building is not currently being used and is considered abandoned and in peril.

The 2007 Places in Peril Nomination for A. L. Miller Senior High states “[Miller] has been an icon and important educational center for the Winship Heights/Montpelier inner-city neighborhood since its construction.”

The school building is still considered structurally sound, and many believe that it should be saved and restored rather than demolished. “Its demolition would seriously impact the viability of the neighborhood and be a loss to the heritage of our city,” the nomination said.

To restore such a large building would require a great amount of funding.

“I want to say it was $11 million last time we looked at the rehabilitation of the building. You can guess that it will cost somewhere around a $100 a square foot, so it depends on how much of the campus you want to revitalize,” said Josh Rogers.

Rogers is the current executive director of Historic Macon and the new president and chief executive officer of NewTown Macon.

“Architecture, like any other art form, is extremely subjective, so it’s really difficult to come up with an objective way of measuring an individual building’s importance,” Rogers said. “When we’re looking at historic buildings and trying to figure out if it’s worth getting involved to cause preservation, the primary criteria is, ‘Is it eligible for the National Register, or is it already listed in the register?’”

The National Register of Historic Places is kept by the National Parks Service and is the official list of the nation’s places that are deemed worthy of preservation.                                 “Attending Miller had [its] challenges and rewards both socially and academically. Socially, there were three levels of student life: Greek life, the middle area student[s] and those students who were considered somewhat of an outcast,” said Miller graduate of ’67, Judith Ryan.

“My time at Miller was spent in the middle area where I made and still have three very close friends. The Greek world was somewhat arrogant, and the students who were considered outcasts came from homes in the mill villages. Looking back on my time at Miller, I see now that being in the middle was a safe place to be,” Ryan said.

Miller has stood in place for many decades and holds an important place in Macon’s history. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the students of Bibb County school system were faced with desegregating schools.

“The atmosphere at Miller was a microcosm of what was going on in the south in general,” said Ryan. “When Miller was desegregated my senior year, I was surprised that the students behaved with more dignity than the onlookers across the street. Perhaps it was apathy, or perhaps the women of Miller realized that desegregation was inevitable, so why make waves? Or maybe it was just teenage disinterest in anything other than dances, grades and boys,” said Ryan.

“We heard the ‘winds of change,’ but I do not think that any of us believed that it would actually change the school so significantly. We were more worried about the Vietnam War, as it was beginning to directly affect the young men we knew [who] were being required to register for the draft,” said Singly-Hall.

When the Bibb County’s schools faced court-ordered integration, the schools Lanier, Miller Junior and Millor Senior High were merged together to create the Central High School Complex. The schools were no longer segregated by race but remained segregated by sex until 1981.

As A. L. Miller came face-to-face with desegregation, many students accepted change and continued to act as any other teenage girl would. The main focus of Miller students was on grades, friends and boys. “Boy did we go crazy when Lanier boys in uniform walked down the halls,” said ’67 graduate Kay Lovejoy.

In 2007 the process of building a new Central High School began which would later leave A. L. Miller with limited use. Today the A. L. Miller school building is boarded up and vandalized.

“I think there are some very complicated equations that people go by and a lot of times they think that building new is cheaper than rehabilitating,” said Rogers. “In some ways, it is way more dependable. With a historic building, when you start the rehabilitation, you really can’t have a firm budget until you get it all opened up and look at what you’re dealing with.

“Unfortunately a lot of organizations, especially Boards of Education, that are working on a huge scale depend on the dependability of building new rather than entering into a more creative rehabilitation, even if rehabilitation would be less costly in the long run,” said Rogers.“I strongly feel that Miller High School is probably a financial mistake for the school board because it’s sitting there abandoned; it’s depressed the values of property around it so much it’s probably reduced revenue by way more than the amount the school board saved by building new.”

“I would love to see Miller become a specialized high school.  She sits there like the grand dame, alone and sad.  I think if the city of Macon as well as the Bibb County BOE would take up the banner of reviving her, there is a population large enough in numbers that could justify rehabbing Miller,” said Ryan.

Many considerations are being made over what can be done with the school. Rogers said that two plans have been floating around in the past two years, both considering using the building for low-income housing.

“So far there has been significant resistance and debate from public officials and the neighbors about whether that building should be restricted to low-income use or whether we should wait until such a time that it might be available for market rate use,” said Rogers.

“Until that debate’s resolved, I don’t know that anything is going to happen with it. It’s really a chicken or egg question,” said Rogers. “Do you fix the neighborhood, so you can do something market rate with the school? Or do you fix the school in hopes that you can do something market rate with the neighborhood?”

There is a federal program known as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program that can be used in addition to historic rehabilitation tax credits. With these two programs combined, it is possible that Macon can recover 50 percent of the costs of fixing the building, thus making the option of historic rehabilitation a great deal less expensive.

A. L. Miller Senior High School holds historical and sentimental value to the people of Macon. Many generations of women have walked through the now-abandoned halls and still hold the establishment in high esteem. “I look back now and realize that the woman I am now, in part, is due to the challenges and successes I experienced at A.L. Miller High School,” said Ryan.

Macon welcomes Hometown Yoga as the innovative community-approach style studio for yoga classes. The studio offers a wide variety of classes while bringing the Macon community together in a relaxed setting.

Offering an extensive variety and number of classes, Hometown Yoga is like no other yoga studio around. It not only allows participants to gain the benefits from yoga sessions, both physical and mental, but also to create a familiarity and build community among its members.

Co-founders Rachel Gerrity and Ashley Dunwoody, Macon natives, established the Hometown Yoga studio in Macon in the hopes of creating “a community for all the people who we had met through previous classes,” said Gerrity.

“We wanted to make yoga accessible and attractive to all people: mommy-and-me yoga and yoga for all ages, including kids,” she said.

From “Beginner’s Yoga” to “Deep Stretch” to “Yoga Boot Camp,” Hometown Yoga seems to really have a class for everyone. With a wide variety of classes, the studio can offer something to yoga students of all ages and all levels of experience.

“We are really making yoga fun and accessible for all people,” Gerrity said. She continued by saying that Hometown Yoga offers a number of “gentle, deep stretching classes, a yoga body boot camp, children classes, Kundalini classes [and more.]”

Additionally, Hometown Yoga features heated yoga. Heated yoga, when the studio room is heated to different temperature levels reaching 80 or above, is proven to relax muscles more, thereby increasing flexibility.

Gerrity said that the heated yoga style “opens up your muscles to get into those poses that normally are difficult.

“We offer a lot of hot classes, or classes that are performed in a heated room,” said Gerrity. The heat is also proven to detox “your system by helping flush toxins from the body and skin,” allowing you to feel more energized, according to the Hometown Yoga website.

Yoga classes are “a great way to get in shape and to relax you in a mind-body experience,” said Gerrity. She added that the classes offered at Hometown Yoga are designed to be an hour where you can feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

The studio features guest teachers and classes, giveaways and discount classes all on their Facebook page, Hometown Yoga. The studio even allows you to hold a yoga party by contacting the office.

Hometown Yoga offers single class prices, introductory packages, class cards (in 5 or 10), monthly classes with unlimited access, and many more deals and membership options.

The best part about the Hometown Yoga studio is that for Mercer University and other colleges, they feature a student discount of only $12 for a single class.

Check out a list of their regular classes and information on their website at www.hometownyogamacon.com. To follow upcoming events, guest classes and teachers, giveaways and more, like Hometown Yoga on Facebook.