Column: Plenty to do as 2023 Cherry Blossom Festival concludes this weekend

·6 min read

There are just three days left to get in on the Pinkest Party on Earth but they’re all packed with plenty to do.

And when the 2023 International Cherry Blossom Festival ends Sunday with a Macon Pops concert at 6:30 p.m. at Carolyn Crayton Park – with two tethered hot air balloons on hand – there’ll be no lack of arts, music, cultural activities and interesting people to fill out the new spring season.

But now, more on the Cherry Blossom Festival and another coming event.

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“There’s absolutely been a great turnout this year with all the Cherry Blossom Festival’s traditional events coming back strong and people really getting behind and enjoying a lot of new events and features,” said Hannah Jett Theus, the festival’s director of marketing and fulfillment. “The parade, Bed Race, new Trash Can Trot and Wiener Dog Race were all a lot of fun and drew thousands downtown for a great time.”

And for this last weekend overall?

The festival website at www.cherryblossom.com has the full roster and information on each day’s events so go there, but Theus did mention a few potential highlights.

“Oh, I’d have to say the Food Truck Frenzy and Cherry Market shouldn’t be missed,” she said. “They’re on Cherry and Third streets Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’ve got 20 food trucks this year so there’s a whole lot to choose from and the market vendors are really incredible. Something I think people will really like is the chance to get a picture with real Atlanta Braves game balls and bats for a virtual baseball card to put out on social media. We’re the first stop of a tour of these Braves items around Georgia.”

Admission to Carolyn Crayton Park, formerly Central City Park, is $10 for adults and that’s where you’ll find the rides, shows and overall hub of festival activities. There’s the chance to see “dinosaurs,” magic and other dramatic performances as well as the nightly featured concerts. Other performers are around, too, like Macon’s veteran R&B singer Bo Ponder who’ll be at the Bicentennial Stage Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

A ticket into the park covers all the entertainment but note only clear bags and packs are allowed inside the festival park grounds.

And don’t forget this: Saturday morning, 7 to 10:30, is the last chance you’ll have to get the Macon-Bibb Fire Department’s pink pancakes for a while. Proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

Middle Georgia State University’s School of Arts and Letters’ annual arts festival is a rich mix of visual, performing and literary art showcasing student talent and bringing memorable outside speakers and talents to the area.

But this year’s event is bigger and something quite special.

This year’s festival is themed “Reclaiming the Native South Arts Festival” and featured events begin Monday, March 27, and run through April 14. A definite highlight will be April 11 when MGA brings Joy Harjo to Macon. Harjo was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2019-22 and is Muscogee (Creek), the U.S.’s first indigenous poet laureate. More on her visit in days ahead.

“We always have a theme for the festival and this year we wanted to feature acclaimed Indigenous literary, visual and performing artists as well as scholars who can help us re-orient our understanding of the South by exploring the rich, deep roots of Native American culture and arts here in Middle Georgia as well as throughout the South,” said Mary Wearn, dean of arts and letters. “The idea evolved through our relationship with the Ocmulgee Mounds Association and the successful visit of Joy Harjo to our campus in 2019. We wanted to enlarge on that and create a bigger event for our students and the community with more room for scholarly exploration, more artists and performances and an overall expanded approach to the topic.”

Student work, related and unrelated to the theme, will be part of the festival but Wearn said community support and sponsors are allowing a greater number of visiting guests and activities. She also commended MGA’s faculty, leadership and president, Christopher Blake, for their support and investment in the arts and the festival.

What will the festival look like?

Here’s a sampling, but see the arts festival page on MGA’s website at www.mga.edu for greater detail and scheduling of the many, many varied activities. MGA operates campuses in Macon, Warner Robins, Cochran, Dublin and Eastman with most festival activities in Macon and Cochran. All events are free and open to the public.

-March 27-April 6: Student Art Exhibition in the Peacock Gallery on the Cochran Campus. Opening reception is March 27, 6 p.m.

-March 29: Reclaiming the Native South Humanities Panel where experts on the Indigenous Southeast will take an entertaining but scholarly look at the latest in work, studies and findings on the topic. 4:30 p.m., the Arts Complex Theatre, Macon Campus

-April 3: Film Screening with historian and documentary film producer Malinda Maynor Lowery of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Her short films “Real Indian,” and “Sounds of Faith” will be featured followed by a Q&A with Lowery. 3:30 p.m., the Arts Complex Theatre, Macon Campus

-April 10: Multidisciplinary artist Randy Kemp of the Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw and Euchee Nations will demonstrate screen-printing techniques. 3 p.m., Arts Complex Rehearsal Hall, Macon Campus

-April 12-14: “The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa FastHorse. A stage production satirically exploring the preparation and presentation of a Thanksgiving pageant. “The Thanksgiving Play” will debut on Broadway this spring. Student presentations will be on both the Cochran and Macon campuses. See www.mga.edu for details.

Other art presentations and musical performances abound along with unique festival presentations.

“We want to provide both educational and entertaining opportunities for people to learn about our Indigenous history,” Wearn said. “From our amazing panel to the various pieces of art displayed, we want the community and our students to be more informed. We also want to highlight this unique moment for the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, its history, its purpose, its preservation and of course its likely future as a national park. It’s a local treasure of national significance.”

Wearn stressed the importance of the campus/community relationship to MGA and said while all are encouraged to attend events, special effort has been made to bring both senior-aged citizens and K-12 students to festival events, most notably Harjo’s appearance.

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.