A cherry good time
Conyers readies for annual spring festival

CONYERS - Spring is in the air and the annual Cherry Blossom Festival is just around the corner.

The 28th Annual Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 28 and 29 at the Georgia International Horse Park.

Jennifer Edwards, spokeswoman for the city of Conyers, said 300 artists and crafters have signed on to participate in the annual contemporary art festival - a good showing, especially during a recession.

"We are just about full and that is very promising, considering the economy," Edwards said.

Each vehicle will be charged $5 for parking and admission to the festival is free. Organizers ask that attendees contribute donations to Rockdale Emergency Relief's community Food Bank. A $2 coupon toward the purchase of a commemorative festival T-shirt will be given to those who donate.

Festival-goers will be able to stroll the grounds and visit a number of artists from across the Southeast showing their craft, including those who make jewelry, candles, clothing, furniture and birdhouses.

The weekend will be filled with entertainment, as well. Music-lovers can enjoy clog dancing, line dancing, jazz and hip-hop. Soloists, praise bands and groups performing oldies will also be on hand to entertain the crowds.

And of course, there will be plenty of food and strolling entertainment from members of the Georgia Renaissance Festival, the Atlanta Puppet Show, Memories of Mayberry and balloon art from The Magic of Mr. Me.

The signature feature of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the sale of Yoshina cherry trees by the Rockdale County Extension Service and Master Gardener Volunteer Organization.

Cherry trees were not available last year due to a late freeze during the 2007 growing season, followed by a severe drought through much of the Southeast.

Extension Director Jule-Lynne Macie said the trees look healthy this year and she expects that all 1,200 will be sold the first day of the festival.

For $15, patrons can purchase the 4- to 5-foot bare-root cherry trees. Macie said a planting guide will be included with the purchase. She added that a gel coating will be around the roots, but suggested that the trees be planted as soon after purchase as possible.

The Cherry Blossom Festival is a tradition born in Conyers when it was first held on the grounds of the former Maxell building on Parker Road. The festival grew in popularity and was later moved to the horse park.

For the third year in a row, the Cherry Blossom Festival has been named the Best Festival in the Southeast with a budget under $75,000 by the International Festivals and Events Association.

The festival will be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 28 and 29. For more information, visit www.conyerscherryblossomfest.com.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: Rockdale House flowers, vegetables a festival fixture

By Jay Jones

Staff Reporter

CONYERS - Anyone who has driven by either the Rockdale House for Men on Scott Street or the Rockdale House for Women on Milstead Avenue, both of which are in Olde Town Conyers, has seen their displays of plants for sale throughout the year.

Visitors to this year's Cherry Blossom Festival will have another opportunity to purchase vegetables, bedding plants and hanging baskets cultivated by clients at both houses.

The Rockdale Houses for Men and Women are long-term residential recovery programs for alcoholics and drug addicts. The program was founded in 1974 and is a state-certified recovery residence.

Richard Strickland, executive director of the Rockdale Houses, said the organization's goal is to help men and women restore their lives, become productive members of society and offer assistance to families.

He said working in the greenhouse is an important part of the program for clients at both Rockdale Houses and supplements the recovery program.

However, the donations received for the vegetables and decorative plants is not a major funding source for the Rockdale Houses. Money received helps keep the greenhouses operating, Strickland said.

"We sell a lot of plants, but we don't make any money on them," Strickland said. "It's like therapy, and people find that it is therapeutic to work with the plants."

Both houses have greenhouses that offer a wide variety of flowers and plants for all gardens and front porches, including ferns, tomatoes and mums.

"We're competitive, and we try to be less expensive than what you may get at retail," Strickland said. "It's not like we make a lot of money, but all of it goes back in to keep it going."

The Rockdale Houses for Men and Women have been a fixture of the Cherry Blossom Festival for several years. This year, they can be found in booth 174 on the festival grounds.

For more information, visit www.rockdalehouses.org.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.