Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival Event Lineup

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Cherry blossom buds beginning to bloom during the cherry blossom during the 26th Annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, Feb. 2, 2019. Photo: Crystal Richard

The 27th Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is this weekend, and the day is full of activities.

There will be a lineup of free, multi-cultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus over 150 crafters and food booths from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1. Festivities are at various venues sprawling through the town’s center — look for pink banners identifying site locations.

Festival parking is available at Parker Ranch Center, the soccer field across Church Row Park, along Pukalani Street and Parker Ranch Historic Homes. Festival shuttles offer free transportation among most venues 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by Roberts Hawaii, though walking is encouraged among venues. A map of the shuttle route and festival venues is available in a detailed festival program available at each venue location on February 1.

Organized by members of the upcountry community and the county’s department of parks and recreation, the festival marks the blooming of the historic cherry trees at Church Row Park and celebrates the age-old Japanese tradition of hanami, which translates to “cherry blossom viewing party.” After a seasonal winter chill, the trees typically are blooming in early February. Festival-goers are asked to refrain from climbing the coveted cherry trees and pulling on their branches.


The 2020 event artwork is a watercolor titled “Imiola Church and Cherry Tree” by Chris Kutler of Waikoloa. The work has been reproduced on a limited number of festival collector posters at the Waimea Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery. The $10 posters will be for sale during the festival.

A quick rundown of festival activities at various locations follows (times are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. unless specified otherwise). The schedule is subject to change. Activities are free unless noted.

Church Row Park – Hwy. 19

  • Historical Cherry Tree Display: Waimea Lions’ Club offers a pictorial history of the cherry trees and serves as the festival’s official Lost and Found station.
  • Entertainment: 9:45 a.m.: Traditional Kamuynomi Ceremony by Ainu Kanaka Project, hula, Japanese dance, Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, Chinese lion dance, judo demo
  • Keiki Train Rides: The Cherry Choo Choo — a trackless, barrel train for small children offering rides by Engineer Clarence and Conductor Gloria Yee of Hawi. Rides are $3 per child.
  • Bonsai: The Waimea Bon-yu Kai Bonsai Club offers a display and sale of bonsai, ongoing demonstrations and a clinic to discuss and work on the art of bonsai.
  • Asian Collectibles/Food Sales at Kamuela Hongwanji: Browse Asian-themed collectibles including kimonos, cherry blossom crafts, cherry blossom cuttings, plus Asian foods: Inari sushi, nishime bento, chichi mochi and andagi.
  • Cooking Demos at Kamuela Hongwanji: Hawai‘i Island chefs offer cooking demonstrations with free samples 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Chef Sanshiro Homma of Shiono Ramen, Chef Ippy Aiona of Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, Chef Allen Hess of Aloha Bol, Chef Patrick Saito of Sansei Seafood, Steak and Sushi Bar and Chef Jayson Kanekoa of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
  • Origami instruction at Kamuela Hongwanji: Hands-on fun with Kikuko Kibe.
  • Open House at Kamuela Hongwanji: Rev. Bruce Nakamura explains Shin Buddhism rituals.
  • Tea Tasting: Mauna Kea Tea offers samples of locally produced and Japanese teas. Learn how to best prepare and maximize the benefits of these teas; Japanese teas presented by the Japanese Tea Instructor’s Program of Japan. Hawai‘i teas will be for sale.

Parker Ranch Center – Hwy. 19

  • Festival Entertainment Stage: In the back parking lot. Opening 9 a.m., welcome ceremonies kick off continuous entertainment until 3 p.m.: Bon Odori Taiko accompanied by Kona Taiko, Kamana Senior Center’s Young-at-Heart Line Dancers, Team Majestic Lion Dancers, Bending Elbows, Patio Productions, Darlene Ahuna and Taishji Taiko.
  • Craft Fair: Nearly 150 crafters and community booths inside Center and in back parking lot.
  • Mochi Tsuki Pounding: Help pound mochi using 500 pounds of rice with the Kona Hongwanji Mission outside the Fireside Food Court starting 10 a.m.; samples.

Mana Christian Ohana Church – (Former Kahilu Town Hall) Behind Parker Ranch Center

  • Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea Quilt Show: Quilt display
  • New Car Display: IK Dealer Group displays new vehicles from Kamaaina Motors, Kamaaina Nissan, Kona Nissan and Kona Dodge in the adjacent lot.

Waimea Historic Corner – Hwys. 19/190 intersection

  • Firehouse Gallery Activities: Waimea Arts Council presents cherry blossom and spring-themed art, sales of $10 festival poster and sale of original festival oil painting, sidewalk chalk drawing for all ages, keiki face painting, food sales.
  • Waimea Preservation Association Cottage: Cottage Open House
  • Waimea School Gym: Craft Fair presented by Waimea Elementary School.
  • Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library: Create your own cherry blossom-themed greeting card. Free materials provided; all ages are welcome, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Parker Ranch Historic Homes – Hwy. 190, Shuttle transport between Parker Ranch Center

  • Japanese Tea Ceremony: The Urasenke Hilo Association performs traditional chanoyu inside Puuopelu starting 9:30 a.m. and every half hour thereafter until 1:30 p.m.
  • Performing Arts: Enjoy a variety of Asian performing arts titled “Sakura Beauty and Spirit” 2-3 p.m., including the Shizuno Nasu Dance Institute from Japan, vocalist Minehana, lyre master Miyuki Ikesue and lyre ensemble, and island musicians on taiko and piano.
  • Interactive Fun: feather lei making demos, self-guided tour of Historic Homes.

Waimea Center – Hwy. 19

  • KTA Super Stores Waimea: In-store demos and sampling 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Waimea Center’s Center Court: Kohala Taiko 9 a.m., Honokaa Jazz Band 10 a.m., Darin Miyashiro on koto with So-shin Kai 11 a.m. and Majestic Lion Dance 12:15 p.m.

Historic Spencer House – (Next to Waimea Center) Hwy. 19

  • Japanese Collectibles: View a display of vintage kimonos and collection of kokeshi dolls, plus learn about the 1840 Spencer House.

Keck Observatory Headquarters – Hwy. 19

  • See the Sun: West Hawaii Astronomy Club provides solar telescopes 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Kamuela Liquors – Hwy. 19

  • Sake Tasting: Noon-3 p.m.

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