Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival Goes Virtual
Waimea’s annual Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has gone virtual in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Produced by Na Leo TV and the Culture and Education Division of the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation, the 90-minute-long virtual version marks the festival’s 28th year and airs Friday, March 12.
For the past 27 years, thousands have descended on Church Row Park on the first Saturday of February to celebrate the Japanese culture and the coming of spring. The park, littered with blossoming cherry trees, has been the festival’s site to offer a full day of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, origami, traditional tea ceremony, mochi pounding and a host of colorful craft fairs.
“The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival truly exemplifies how community, private enterprise and government work together for a common goal,” said Roxcie Waltjen, parks culture and education administrator and long-time festival organizer. “This year’s virtual celebration pays tribute to all those people, who over the course of the past 28 years, have generously contributed their time, effort, resources and knowledge to perpetuate the traditions of ‘Hanami,’ or “Viewing of the Flowers in Springtime.”
Watch a promo video clip here.
Featured virtual entertainers include Darlene Ahuna, Mark Yamanaka, Randy Lorenzo, Hawane Rios, Ho‘oko, Bending Elbows, Kris Fuchigami, Vaughn Valentino, Longakit ‘Ohana (Loeka & Pomai) and Taishoji Taiko.
Reverend Daido Baba of Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin will give the opening prayer and Mayor Mitch Roth provides the welcoming virtual message. Other speakers include Gov. David Ige and First Lady Dawn Ige, Japan Consul General Yutaka Aoki, Hawai‘i County Councilmembers Tim Richards and Sue Lee Loy, and Waltjen.
The virtual festival will air at 7 p.m. on Spectrum TV Channel 53 or via online channel viewing at naleo.tv/channel-53. Watch the festival later at naleo.tv/vod under the NLTV Exclusives tab or via the Na Leo TV mobile app available for free download from the Apple App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).
“For the virtual experience, we have enhanced all interactive activities and made visuals available for more public viewing,” Waltjen explained. “The video documents the festivalʻs history and cultural significance and reaffirms the commitment of our island communities to overcome challenges in the face of adversity. We hope viewers enjoy this presentation as we begin to plan for the 2022 Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival.”