Darrell Huckaby: Cherry Blossom Festival is still a local event

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Here we are in the middle of March and the weather is in mid-season form — if the season is summer, that is. Old Man Winter barely came by for a visit this year. I think the reason he stayed away is because gas is so high he couldn’t afford to make the trip.

Whatever. All I know is that the thermometer on my back porch read in the 80s on three different days this week and as summer approaches, it looks like it's going to be a hot one.

But before we can embrace summer here in our little section of the North Georgia Piedmont, we must take time to enjoy the spring season, which will be officially arriving in just a few days. March Madness is in full swing, the Masters is just around the corner. Folks who actually gave something up for Lent this year are counting down the days until Easter, and next weekend one of the grand rites of the season will occur. It's Cherry Blossom Festival time again, y'all.

The Cherry Blossom Festival, in its infancy, was held on the grounds of what used to be Maxell, the Japanese-owned company that makes and packages videotapes and CDs and such. The Maxell folks were determined to be a vital part of the community and a good neighbor, and the year before I moved to Conyers they instituted a springtime festival on their property grounds, amid the many, many cherry trees that they had planted in an effort to help beautify the area.

My lovely wife, Lisa, quickly embraced the Cherry Blossom Festival and looked forward to it every year. Honesty compels me to admit that I was a reluctant participant the first time she convinced (nicer word than "forced") me to go over to the Parker Road gathering with her. Arts and crafts meant "shopping" to me, and I have never been a big fan of shopping. But I did quickly become a fan of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival because although there were plenty of arts and crafts and a right fair amount of shopping there was also a lot of food -- you can't have a festival without funnel cakes -- and a lot of friends that I didn't get to see very often.

Remember, this was back in the "everybody knows everybody" era and on many Saturdays it was Lisa who had to pull me away from the event because I was having so much fun visiting with folks and people watching. I may not be much of a shopper but I am a world class people watcher.

Word of our local festival spread an eventually it outgrew its home at Maxell and was moved to the Georgia International Horse Park and then, of course, like everything else about Rockdale County, things just weren't the same -- or so people said. Instead of local vendors there were folks from all over. Traffic was a mess and it was hard to get in and out and you no longer knew everybody you encountered. The Cherry Blossom Festival became a microcosm of what the community had become and a lot of local people began to stay away -- which isn't a good thing -- because you see y'all, the Cherry Blossom Festival is still ours. It is our own community festival and it is run by local folks who put in a lot of effort and elbow grease all year long into making it, year in and year out, one of the best in the South. There are arts and crafts galore and tons of entertainment and there are still a lot of local vendors. Plus it is people-watching heaven and if we all go, well, we will all be there -- and you can spend as much time as you want catching up with old friends, or maybe making a few new ones.

When I started writing for the Citizen newspapers, about 16 years ago, our editor Alice Queen invited me to come and sit at the Citizen's tent, which always has a prominent spot near the entrance to the grounds. I have done so every year since. It is fun to meet the readers and hand out small gifts and register folks to win larger prizes. Once in a great while I sell a subscription to the paper. And I usually have a few of my books, which I would gladly autograph for anybody who wants to buy one. And I really do need to autograph a few books this year.

This year's festival is next Saturday and Sunday -- so y'all come. I'll be around from noon until 3 on Saturday and Sunday. I would purely love to see every one of you.

And besides, there will be funnel cakes. After all, you can't have a festival without funnel cakes.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.