How the Cherry Blossom Festival started, plus new events

Cherry blossom bloom on a tree, with the administration building in the background.
Cherry blossoms on the Macon campus. Photo by Andrea Honaker

Calling all festival lovers: Georgia’s best festival is back in Macon from March 17-26. The International Cherry Blossom Festival has brought thousands of people together for the past 41 years and continues to grow larger each year. In fact, Southern Living listed the festival on its list of “Southern Events, Festivals and Happenings Not to Miss this Spring.” 

But what is the draw of the Cherry Blossom Festival? Annually in March, 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees will bloom throughout Macon, turning the city into the pinkest city in the world. Macon’s cherry blossom history goes back to 1949, when the late William A. Fickling Sr., a local real estate magnate, discovered a unique tree in his back yard. It wasn’t until a business trip to Washington, D.C., in 1952 that he was able to identify it as a Yoshino cherry tree. He found out how to propagate the tree and began sharing it with others, which led the blooms to grow in number and attention.

In 1973, the community came together and decided to expand the number of trees by planting 500 Yoshino cherry trees throughout Macon. But the love for the trees did not stop there. Carolyn Crayton, who spearheaded the cherry blossom planting efforts, proposed a festival celebrating Macon’s pink trees, and the Cherry Blossom Festival was born in 1982.

Annually, the festival occurs during the third week of March, around the anticipated bloom period. Thousands flock to Macon to see the pink city, but those who can’t make it, can even see the blooms online. This year’s peak bloom is believed to happen around March 23, so get ready! You can view cherry blossom trees across the city on the Cherry Blossom Trail, and Visit Macon has created a handy map to help you find them all.

Are you planning to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival? I remember my first trip to the festival fondly and enjoy returning every year. I recommend coming up with a game plan for the events you hope to attend. Check out my column from last year for my festival bucket list. The dates will be different for this year, but the fun still applies!

My favorite event is always the wiener dog race, which will take place on Cherry Street in downtown Macon on March 18. I also enjoy seeing the live music at Carolyn Crayton Park, aka Cherry Blossom headquarters. This year, you can see performances from The Legendary Wailers, Demun Jones, Sugarhill Gang, Rock the 90s, Eli Young Band and more. See a full list of the musical guests for this year’s festival here

New for the 2023 festival is the Bicentennial Stage at Carolyn Crayton Park, which showcases local acts, and the Trash Can Trot on March 18. After a hiatus, the Cherry Blossom Fashion Show returns to the Tubman Museum on March 25. The March 26 festival finale, previously held on the lawn of Wesleyan College, moves to Carolyn Crayton Park and will feature a performance by Macon Pops and fireworks.

In between the festivities, don’t forget to visit all the wonderful restaurants and shops in downtown Macon. They are open and happy to see you throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival! For more information on our local businesses, follow @downtownmaconga on Instagram. 


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