Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival canceled due to omicron increase

Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival canceled due to omicron increase

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, scheduled for February 5, will not include personal celebrations this year.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth’s spokesman Cyrus Johnasen confirmed Friday that the 29th annual event will not be held due to the increase in COVID. He said the discussion is still ongoing to determine if there will be any virtual components available this year with details on the way.

The decision to cancel this year’s event came after a coordination committee meeting held Thursday, about a week after festival organizers announced the event would take place with personal events following a 2021 holiday year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“At the meeting, concerns were raised about the current increase in COVID-19 cases on Hawaii Island, and whether it is appropriate at this time to hold an event that has traditionally attracted 30,000+ visitors to the Waimea area. Many people have worked hard to make the Cherry Blossom Festival one of the island’s leading events, and the committee expressed that they felt obligated to cancel this year’s event of concern and love for their community, ”said Maurice Messina, director of the county department. of parks and recreation.

The Coordinating Committee and the Department of Culture and Education will work on a plan to pay tribute to all those who have helped bring the Cherry Blossom Festival from its humble beginnings to what is now a treasured annual event on the island.

“Several community partners have already pledged their support to help develop, coordinate and produce newspaper articles to ensure that our communities can be reminded of what makes this annual tradition so special,” Messina said. “While we regret having to cancel this year’s event, we look forward to bringing the traditional Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival back to 2023, which will be its 30th anniversary.”

The festival, which was last held in February 2020, was to include a range of Japanese and multicultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, traditional tea ceremony and outdoor craft and food vendors.

Organized by members of the Waimea community and Hawaii County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the festival marks the flowering of the historic cherry trees of Church Row Park. The trees typically bloom in late January and early February after a good winter cold and abundant rainfall.

Celebrating the first flowering of the season dates back to eighth-century Japan, where aristocrats would enjoy the flowers while writing poetry. “Hanami,” literally “flower look,” is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom party.”

The Upcountry Festival began in 1993 to promote the city when a bypass was proposed that would have led people around Waimea. Since 1994, when the Waimea Lions Club inaugurated the event, the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has grown to stretch from one side of the city to the other with more than 150 vendors in various locations.

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

In 1975, the organization planted another 50 trees in memory of the first Japanese immigrants who settled in the Waimea area a century earlier. Over the years, additional trees have been planted, including in 2012, when a dozen trees were planted by the Japanese consulate and other senior officials to mark the 100th anniversary of cherry trees from Japan planted in Washington, DC, to promote goodwill and friendship.

For more information, contact the department’s culture and education department at (808) 961-8706.

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