Activities

Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival to Honor Kibe, West

January 2, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated December 29, 12:29 PM
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The 2022 Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is planning in-person festivities from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, and next year’s event will honor two special Waimea residents.

Next year’s installment of the annual cherry blossom festival will recognize the late Kikuko Kibe and volunteer J. Jay West, both of Waimea.

Kibe delighted festival-goers for two decades by teaching origami. The Japanese native was skilled in paper-folding and she demonstrated how to craft cranes, tulips, boats, animals and balloons using colored paper for festival attendees. Favorites were the airplane “popper,” which was folded to catch air and pop when shook, and the “paku paku” moveable finger toy.

J. Jay West; Kikuko Kibe is featured in the other photo accompanying this story. Courtesy photos

“My mother liked interacting with the kids and adults and she really enjoyed how the kids had fun when creating something,” said Kibe’s daughter, June Kibe of New Jersey. “She was especially pleased how kids came back year after year, looking for her to do more origami. She looked forward to that.”

A former school teacher, Kibe also loved Hawaiian quilting, volunteering as an instructor at Sew Fun in Honoka´a, tai chi and singing with the Waimea Consort. The mother of two and grandmother of four died April 8 at the age of 89.

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West has been involved with the cherry blossom festival since 1996. As a member of the Waimea Arts Council, she spearheaded the formation of the Firehouse Gallery into a prominent festival venue.

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The Waimea resident and artist at Peak Art Gallery encouraged the growth of the Firehouse Gallery’s annual Cherry Blossom Art Exhibition to include more than 25 local artists, instituted the creation of a yearly festival art poster, organized hands-on artistic activities for festival attendees and set up engaging artist demonstrations. West also brought in community theater performances and arranged for food to be sold to hungry festival-goers, which included participating in the formation of a cherry-themed bake sale.

“The festival fosters an appreciation of the Japanese and Hawaiian ancestry of which the Waimea community was built,” West said. “It also showcases many of the community’s nonprofits, all on one day of the year.”

After being involved with the festival a few years, West took on the added responsibility of helping the late Dolly Loo produce the festival’s printed booklet, which is handed out each year at festival venues. She has been involved with overseeing the design and printing of the free publication for almost 20 years and is retiring from this duty as of the 2022 festival. West is turning over the ropes to Waimea Arts Council member Kathy Sprinkle.

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“I’ll continue to participate in the annual Cherry Blossom Art Show at the Firehouse Gallery,” West said.

Following COVID safety protocols, the 29th annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival will be scaled down to less venues and allow for social distancing. Masks also will be required to be worn by attendees.

Festivities kick off with a blessing on the main entertainment stage behind Parker Ranch Center. Roberts Hawaii will provide free transportation between Church Row Park and Parker Ranch Center. Spend the day experiencing a lineup of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, a traditional tea ceremony and outdoor craft vendors.

The festival is produced by the Hawai‘i County Parks and Recreation Department’s Culture and Education Section.

For more information, call 808-961-8706. You also can find updates on Facebook.

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