The 20th annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has a full lineup of multi-cultural performing arts, hands-on demonstrations, plus over 100 crafters and food booths 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at various venues sprawling through town—look for pink banners identifying site locations.
Marking its 20th anniversary year, the festival debuts a commemorative poster showcasing the art of Kailua-Kona resident Aelbert Aehegma. The 11X17-inch poster features Aehegma’s impressionistic painting, “Cherry Blossom Snows.” The $10 poster, along with prints and the original 18X24-inch painting, can be purchased at the Firehouse Gallery. The internationally recognized artist will be at the gallery 10 a.m.-3 p.m. during the festival to sign the souvenir event posters.
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 February.
This year’s festival commemorates festival organizer, community activist and Outstanding Older American for Hawaii Island, the late Anne Field Gomes—and her husband, David Gomes.
The official festival program will be included just prior to the event in the North Hawaii News and also distributed at festival venues. It includes a map with activity locations and details on the many presenting organizations.
Festival parking is available at Parker Ranch Center and the soccer field across Church Row Park. A free shuttle offers transportation among festival venues with stops at Parker Ranch Historic Homes on Hwy. 190, Parker Ranch Center’s back parking lot and Church Row Park. A quick rundown of festival activities at various locations follows (times are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. unless specified otherwise). Events are also free unless specified otherwise.
Church Row Park
• 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. The Lions will also collect used eyeglasses, offer vision screening and sell pancake breakfast tickets
• Bonsai: The Waimea Bonyu Kai Bonsai Club offers a display and sale of bonsai, ongoing demonstrations and a clinic to discuss and work on the art of bonsai
• Cooking Demos at Kamuela Hongwanji: Big Isle chefs offer cooking demonstrations with free samples
• Japanese Cultural Demos/Entertainment at Kamuela Hongwanji: Learn the time-honored arts of furoshiki (gift wrapping cloth) and origami. Taiko drumming performance.
• Asian Collectibles/Food Sales at Kamuela Hongwanji: Church organizations sell Asian-themed collectibles, lanterns made from recycled beverage cans, cherry tree seedlings and cherry blossoms in mugs, temple cookbooks. Asian foods: Inari sushi, teriyaki chicken bowl, nishime, manju, andagi and prune mui.
• Martial Arts Demonstrations throughout the day
Parker Ranch Center- Hwy. 19
• Festival Entertainment Stage: In the back parking lot. Opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. kick off continuous entertainment until 3 p.m.: Bon Odori Taiko, bon dance, Japanese for Kids and Montessori Schools presentation, Kaliko Kalehua Hula Studio, Kumu Hula Michael Pang’s Hula Halau Ka Noeau, Darlene Ahuna, Tropic Lightning Band, Tai Shoji Taiko.
• Craft Fair: Over 100 crafters inside Center and in the back parking lot, cherry tree seedlings for sale 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’s 20th Biennial Hawaiian Quilt Show: Extensive quilt display that includes the Cherry Blossom quilt and honors the late Kimo Balai. Members sell merchandise, offer a free “learn how” area and pattern tracing for a nominal fee.
• Kamaaina Motors Car Show: Hamakua side of parking lot
Waimea Historic Corner-Hwys. 19/190 intersection
• Firehouse Gallery Art Demos/Exhibition: Waimea Arts Council presents a members’ invitational show with a cherry blossom theme. Artists demonstrate paper, painting and jewelry making, plus sidewalk chalk drawings for all ages, while Kohala Taco & Burger sells tacos as a fundraiser for the arts organization. Commemorative Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival poster sales here for $10, poster art by Aelbert Aehegam signs posters 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Waimea Preservation Association presents a history of the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival.
Parker School-Hwy. 19
Waimea Town Market/Performing Arts: Farmers Market open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. with performance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii-Kohala and Okinawan folk dance 10 a.m.-noon.
Parker Ranch Historic Homes-Hwy. 190
Cultural Demos/Performing Arts/Food: Enjoy ritual Japanese tea ceremony led by Emi Wakayama; the Sakura Ensemble joined by harpist Chikako Nakano and tsuzumi drummer Issa Mochizuki, plus a Japanese hula halau. Enjoy sumie demonstrations and displays of mosaic/glass art and ikebana.
Parker Ranch Arena-Hwy. 190
Hawaii High School Rodeo Assn.: Monthly event competition for keiki in the morning and junior high division in the afternoon (high school on Sunday). Donations welcome; food booth sales.
Paniolo Heritage Center at Historic Pukalani Stables-End of Pukalani St. (turn south off Hwy. 19 at Ace Hardware)
Ranching Themed Activities: Paniolo breakfast 8-10 a.m. for $10 donation, heritage center open house, historic photo display by the Natural Resources Conservation Service/Soil/Water Conservation District and of Japanese “Kepani” cowboys, live music, hanafuda card playing, refreshments and sales of Paniolo Preservation Society merchandise.
Kamuela Liquors-Hwy. 19
Sake Tasting: Noon-3 p.m.
Kuhio Hale-Hwy. 19
Farmer’s Market: More than 20 members of the Hawaiian Homestead Market offer a variety of products 7 a.m.-noon
Ginger Farm- (old Anderson Homestead) MM 55 across from Puu Nani St. on Hwy. 19
Japanese Home Tour/Tea Tasting/Art Fun: Self-guided tour through traditional Japanese style home; Island keiki serve cherry tea and show keiki how to make a cherry blossom hanging scroll.
The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced by the Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Department. Overseen by the park’s culture education administrator, Roxcie Waltjen, the festival is a community-wide effort by a dedicated team of volunteers, 961-8706.
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