City Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams hopes the city’s brand new cherry trees will blossom in time for Brookhaven’s first Cherry Blossom festival in March, but she says there’s “no guarantee.”
“We’ll remind people that they are brand new trees,” she said of the 220-plus trees being planted throughout the city now. “This is really a lifelong investment. We’ll plant the trees, but our children will sit under them.”
The festival, scheduled for March 27 through March 29, will be centered in Blackburn Park, and 140 of those trees are going there. The 52-acre park is “ideally suited with pathways” where artisans, street musicians and vendors can set up camp.
While the festival is in the early planning stages, the city has hired the NUN Group, know for the Atlanta Jazz Festival, among other events. Williams says she anticipates the festival will include live music, food, arts and crafts, a 5K race and a pet parade on Saturday and Sunday. The kick-off Friday night could potentially be a Taste of Brookhaven event headed by the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce.
She said she also hopes groups from the city’s other parks could each hold a corresponding event, such as a pink martini night.
In April the city adopted the cherry tree as the official tree of the city to give the city a brand.
“I love anything that blooms,” Williams said of the choice, but added that city officials also wanted something that would recognize Brookhaven’s international elements, and the cherry tree harkens back to when Japan gave Washington, D.C., a cherry tree a century ago, symbolizing international friendship.
The city is using $40,000 of its hotel/motel tax money to pay for the trees. The money must be used for something that will bring tourists in. “I see an economic development opportunity here,” Williams said, explaining that the expectations are for the festival to bring outside folks in who will spend money in the city’s hotels, stores and restaurants.
At a recent community meeting, Mayor J. Max Davis said he hopes the Cherry Blossom Festival is one in a string of festivals.
“I’d like to have festivals all across the city,” he said. “This past fall, we had Live in the Park,” which brought 2,000 people to Blackburn Park.
“This is just the beginning,” Williams said. “You have to take the first step and plant the first tree. You have to start somewhere; it’s an investment in the future.”