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Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival returns to South Kohala

SOUTH KOHALA, Hawai‘i — ‘Tis the season when thousands of locals and visitors descend upon Waimea to celebrate heritage, culture and cherry blossoms.

The 31st Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival will be held Saturday, Feb. 3, in the historic South Kohala community with various venues stretching through the town’s center. The annual event offers a lineup of free, multicultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus a multitude of crafters and food booths from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The ornamental trees typically bloom in late January and early February following a good winter’s chill and ample rainfall. Celebrating the season’s first bloom dates to eighth century Japan when aristocrats would enjoy the blossoms while writing poetry. “Hanami,” literally “flower look,” is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom viewing party.”

Waimea’s first cherry trees arrived in 1953 as a memorial to Fred Makino, who founded Japanese language newspaper Hawai‘i Hochi in 1912. Three ornamental cherry trees were distributed, one of which was propagated, and 20 of its saplings were later donated to the Waimea Lions Club to be planted along Church Row Park in 1972.

In 1975, the organization planted 50 more trees in commemoration of the first Japanese immigrants to settle the Waimea area a century earlier. Over the years, additional trees have been planted.

Festival activities will be sprawled through town from Parker Ranch Historic Homes to Church Row with entertainment featuring Taiko drums, hula, bon dance and musical performances and more. Live cooking demonstrations, Japanese Tea Ceremony and mochi pounding will be presented along with over 75 crafter, food and information booths.

Pukalani Stables will also be having their Saturday Farmer’s Market with festival activities, including an appearance by Darlene Ahuna and activities for the keiki.

“The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest events that our Parks and Recreation Culture and Education division puts on in collaboration with an awesome committee,” said department spokesman Thatcher Moats.

“It’s really government, community members, nonprofits and businesses coming together to put this event together.”

Parking will be available at Parker Ranch Center, the soccer field across from Church Row Park and along Pukalani Street. Roberts Hawai‘i will be offering free shuttle service between Parker Ranch Historic Homes, Parker Ranch Center, Church Row Park and Pukalani Stables.

The free handout, “2024 Festival Activity Lineup,” will be available at all venues to guide festivalgoers. In addition, a free 2024 souvenir program will also be distributed to showcase the many organizations that put on the festival. Both of these publications will also be available online through a bar code published on posters throughout the festival.

“It’s an awesome event,” said Moats. “There’s really something for everyone.”

For a list of all venues and events, visit http://tinyurl.com/45fupaxn.

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Reporter Laura Ruminski can be reached at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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