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.