Tokyo, April 29, 2015 — The Government of Japan announced the foreign recipients of the 2015 Spring Imperial Decorations. Among 85 foreign recipients is Mrs. Carolyn Crayton, Founder and Former President and CEO of Macon, Georgia's International Cherry Blossom Festival, who will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, in recognition of her contribution to promoting cultural exchanges and understanding of Japan in the United States through a cherry blossom festival.

macon.cherryStarting with organizing the first community effort to plant 500 Yoshino cherry blossom trees in her new town of Macon, Georgia in 1973, Mrs. Crayton went on to found the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission and then launch the Cherry Blossom Festival in 1983.

Since its humble beginnings, Macon, Georgia's International Cherry Blossom Festival has become one of the Top 20 Events in the South, Top 50 Events in the U.S., and Top 100 Events in North America. It has grown from a 3-day festival with 30 events to a month-long celebration featuring hundreds of events planned to entertain all ages and backgrounds. Yoshino trees continue to be planted around the town, now numbering more than 300,000, helping Macon to retain its distinctive title as the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.

Cherry blossoms hold a special place in the hearts of the Japanese and are celebrated during their brief appearance. The hard work and dedication with which Mrs. Crayton gave for more than 30 years to similarly celebrate the blooming of the cherished cherry blossoms, and thus her promotion of Japan-U.S. cultural exchange and understanding, prove her to be especially deserving of this award.

Mrs. Crayton has also travelled to Japan several times along with various Cherry Blossom Festival queens to participate in festivals in Macon's Sister City of Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture. The strong impression Mrs. Crayton made during her visits on the people of Kurobe can be seen through a song which was written by a Kurobe citizen and dedicated to Mrs. Crayton in April 2000, entitled “Love, Beauty, and Friendship.” As a representative of Macon, Mrs. Crayton has helped strengthen the relationship between the two cities.