Thursday, May 31, 2018

Throwback Thursday - A Key to Binghamton's Future?

I blogged this in 2010 after a visit to Macon, Georgia.  Why did we travel  over 800 miles from near Binghamton, New York to Macon?  And what does this has to do with a possible urban renewal in nearby Johnson City, New York.

Short answer:  Flowers.  Read now about Macon, and come back this weekend to read more about what Johnson City, New York is attempting to do.

Now, my spring, 2010 post with some editing:
I think even boosters of Macon, Georgia will admit that their urban renewal efforts have not all worked.  Walking around downtown, we passed many boarded up businesses.  Some blocks looked less than exciting.  But while we were there, thousands of people poured into Macon to celebrate -cherry blossoms.  Two city parks were jammed with people.  There was an awesome arts and crafts festival in Third Street Park that we spent hours in.

And Macon was beautiful.  In some neighborhoods, driving was like driving through clouds of pink and white blossoms.  Here are several tree pictures I took, which do not at all express the beauty of what we saw.  The first picture may be of a different cherry variety, not a Yoshino, but it was beautiful.

Yes, these are the same type of cherry tree that Washington, DC boasts.

So, how does this figure into a possible urban renewal for Binghamton?

Let's look first at Washington, DC, which has the more famous festival.  It is estimated that the Washington, DC Cherry Blossom Festival brings in over 126 million dollars to the area.  It attracts an estimated 1 million visitors to the area, too.  Not bad.

Next, let's look at Macon.  Macon's population in 2010 was only around 93,000. (Binghamton's is around 47,000.) But, the 10 day long festival we just attended brought in a lot of people, too  And, last year, it also brought in an estimated 12 million dollars.  People come for the cherry blossoms and stay for many area attractions.

What makes the Macon festival ironic in a way is that it all started out with a mislabeled dogwood tree.  Macon is zone 8 (gardeners will know what that means) and a bit south for cherry trees.  But a local real estate developer (so the story goes), bought a mislabeled dogwood tree around 1947 and planted it.  Totally puzzled by what he got, he found out when he visited Washington, DC in 1952, saw their Yoshino cherry trees in bloom, and realized that was what he had purchased.

This man, Bill Fickling, saw a good thing and started propagating the trees-and one of the people he gave them to, in turn, talked to Mr. Fickling about planting them all over Macon.  He propagated them further and started giving them away.  So now Macon has about 300,000. of  these trees.  Some of the Macon trees have even ended up in Washington DC.

Bill Fickling, known as the "Founder", was honored at the 2010 Cherry Blossom festival with giveaways of cherry ice cream, Coca-Cola (a drink native to GEorgia) and cake.  Homeowners get into the spirit too, putting pink ribbons on their doors and even painting cherry blossoms onto store windows.  (And putting pink poodle ornaments on their lawns, but that is another story.)

So, should Binghamton have its own festival?  I say "yes"!

Binghamton could sure use that kind of money.

My question is simply this:  what if thousands of blooming trees were planted in and around downtown Binghamton?  And what if various festivals were held at the same time? And tours?

What if Binghamton offered tours of historic downtown buildings at the same time?  We certainly have them:  the Perry Building, the Security Mutual building, just to name two.

Flowering cherries may not be the best choice.  Although what I found in researching indicates they should grow in Binghamton's climate zone (zone 5) I have a feeling it may be a little iffy.  Although, we do have various flowering cherries here.

If not cherry trees, flowering crabapples may be another choice.  They come in both pink and white.  Cornell Extension could help to pick the correct tree or trees to use.

Our trees bloom later, so would not compete with either DC nor Macon.  We might be looking at a late April or early May date.

At the same time, tours could be given of various downtown historical buildings.  We don't have antebellum treasures like Macon, but we have our own treasures.  Examples downtown include the Security Mutual building, the Perry Building, and the Kilmer Building.

No, we don't have anything like Macon's Hays House, but we have Phelps Mansion, on the edge of downtown. 

We don't have St. Joseph's Church (another Macon landmark) but we do have Christ Episcopal, designed by the same man who designed Trinity Church in Manhattan.

In fact, we have trolleys here that can be used for tour purposes.  Just like they do in Macon.

July Fest, a downtown arts and crafts festival held in (yes) July, could be moved to early May and expanded.

We need to get people into downtown, and if flowering trees work for Washington DC and for Macon, Georgia, why not Binghamton?

Why not?  What is there to lose?

(In the near future - although Binghamton is finding its way back in 2018, nearby Johnson City languishes - but a farsighted businessman may have found a solution.)


  1. I miss my Yoshino cherry. It got split in two by a storm many years ago and I have never seen one sold around here again. My community is wasting millions trying to develop a downtown. I is just not going to happen. If you build it, they will come does not always work. Good luck in Binghamton.

  2. From what I recall about Binghamton, it could use a blossoming!

  3. Those trees in blossom are truly beautiful Alana!

  4. Any reason to have a festival, right?

  5. Oh the trees look stunning; I am yet to see a cherry tree in full bloom though have enjoyed apple and plum trees with blossoms.
    Gorgeous post Alana and I hope there is a revival of planting such gorgeous trees in the citscape and turn it into a festival of sorts.

  6. What beautiful blossoms! My dream is to visit the Namaqualand Spring Flowers here in Africa. We've tried so often to go, and this year looked like it was finally going to happen. But now we have a family wedding that we can't miss, so bang go our flower savings again! I hope Binghamton soon has an amazing flower display! Thankful Thursday Week 22 and thoughts on dateless posts.


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