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
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
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.)