William Fickling Jr. invited the French delegates to his residence during their visit to Macon.

Macon, France’s mayor, Jean-Patrick Courtois, led a delegation of 17 business and civic associates March 15-18 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its Sister City relationship with Macon, Ga., at the Middle Georgia city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

The festival traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of participants in a weeklong series of activities that began this year with a gala appropriately titled “Oh là là.”

Jake Ferro, president and CEO of the festival, told Global Atlanta that the Macon Auditorium was filled to capacity with some 400 attendees for the kick-off gala and was decorated to the hilt including a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Denis Barbet, France’s consul general based in Atlanta, attended the gala event along with the delegation.

The next day the delegates witnessed the festive parade, which included several zany events such as a race by men, women and children who ran for a city block in high heels to raise money for breast cancer research.

Although Brig. Gen. Cedric George, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, participated in the high-heel race, the French delegation understandably did not.

Besides the French guests, nine other overseas guests attended including official representatives from Japan, Taiwan and Russia.

The Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission launched the festival in 1982 with a special emphasis on international friendship.

Macon real estate developer William A. Fickling Sr. is credited with populating the city with Yoshino cherry trees when he was inspired by one he found in his backyard and then later saw others in Washington.

His son William A. Fickling Jr. has continued the tradition through the Fickling Family Foundation, which continues to donate thousands of the trees to Macon-Bibb residents every year.

Mr. Fero said that he was particularly pleased to have representatives from the following festivals around the country attend this year:

Fiesta San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas; Hermano DeSoto Heritage, Bradendon, Fla.; Minneapolis Aquatennial, Minneapolis, Minn.; South Dakota Snow Queen Festival, Aberdeen, S.D.; St. Paul Winter Carnival, St. Paul, Minn., and the Tournament of Roses, Pasadena, Calif.

Macon is based in the Burgundy region of central France and is famous for its wines. Macon, Ga.’s mayor, Robert Reichert led a Middle Georgia delegation to the French city last year to further strengthen the Sister City ties.

To learn more about this week’s events, click here.