The 24th annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has a full lineup of free, multi-cultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus over 150 crafters and food booths 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 at various venues sprawling through the town’s center—look for pink banners identifying site locations.
Festival parking is available at Parker Ranch Center, the soccer field across Church Row Park and along Pukalani Street. Festival shuttles offer free transportation among most venues 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. by Roberts Hawaii, though walking is encouraged among venues. A map of the shuttle route and festival venues is available in a detailed festival program available at each venue location on February 4.
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 early February.
This year’s festival is dedicated to long-time event partner Roberts Hawaii and Guinness World Record holder Betty Webster of Waimea. Honorees will be recognized 9 a.m. on the main entertainment stage at the rear of Parker Ranch Center. In attendance will be Governor David Ige, Mayor Harry Kim, Parks and Recreation Director Charmaine Kamaka and County Councilman Tim Richards. Awarding lei to honorees and dignitaries will be the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce 64th Cherry Blossom Festival queen and court.
The 2017 event artwork is “Mauna Kea Io and Cherry Blossoms” by Honokaa artist and nature enthusiast Pat Dinsman. The oil painting will appear on a limited number of collector posters available for $10 at the Waimea Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery.
A quick rundown of festival activities at various locations follows (times are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 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. T-shirt sales.
- Entertainment: Hawaiian hula, taiko drumming and more 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
- 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.
- Asian Collectibles/Food Sales at Kamuela Hongwanji: Browse Asian-themed collectibles, lanterns made from recycled beverage cans, cherry tree seedlings and cherry blossoms in mugs; plus Asian foods: Inari sushi, chicken bowl, nishime bento, chichi mochi, andagi and prune mui.
- Cooking Demos at Kamuela Hongwanji: Kona-Kohala chefs offer cooking demonstrations with free samples 9 a.m. -1 p.m. Also, Waikoloa Beach Marriott (WBM) teams up with its sister property in Japan, the Tokyo Marriott (TM), when local boy and WBM Executive Chef Jayson Kanekoa partners with TM Executive Sous Chef Takashi Ogawa in a memorable demo.
- Origami at Kamuela Hongwanji: Hands-on fun for all ages
Parker Ranch Center- Hwy. 19
- Festival Entertainment Stage: In the back parking lot. Opening 9 a.m. dedication ceremonies kick off continuous entertainment until 3 p.m.: Bon Odori Taiko and Kona Taiko, Christy Lassiter Trio, Lion Dancers, Enka Sisters, Darlene Ahuna, Aloha Kings & Poi Dawgz and Tai Shoji Taiko.
- Craft Fair: Nearly 150 crafters inside Center and in the 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.
- Meet & Greet NHCH: Talk to medical staff from North Hawaii Community Hospital near Lilikoi Café and find out about job opportunities
Kahilu Theatre – Lindsey Road/Parker Ranch Center
- Cultural Demos: Ritual Japanese tea ceremony led by Emi Wakayama 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Performing Arts: Japanese and international music led by Annu Shoko Shionoya with vocalist Kauilani Trainer and Marius Stranger and dancer Shizuno Nasu; lyre harp by Miyuki Ikesue of Tokyo, flutist Yumi Kikuchi and vocalist Gen Morita at 10 a.m. Vocal and dance concert “Sakura Sakura” 1:30-2:30 p.m.
- Art and Film: Contemporary art displayed by Susumu Sakaguchi of Volcano and “Hokulea: Malama Honua-The Voyager Exhibit.” Ikebana by Chikako Powers.
Mana Christian Ohana Church – (Former Kahilu Town Hall) Behind Parker Ranch Center
- Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea’s 22nd Biennial Hawaiian Quilt Show: Extensive quilt display with the theme “Honor Our Past” and craft sale; members offer a “learn how” area and pattern tracing.
- New Car Display: Vehicle display by IK Dealer Group at Hamakua side of parking lot.
Historic Spencer House – (Next to Waimea Center) Hwy. 19
- Koto Presentation and Japanese Collectibles: Koto player and instructor Darin Miyashiro of Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii and the Hawaii Koto Academy performs the national instrument of Japan at noon. View a vintage wedding kimono and collection of kokeshi dolls.
Waimea Historic Corner-Hwys. 19/190 intersection
- Firehouse Gallery Activities: Waimea Arts Council presents art with a cherry blossom theme, sidewalk chalk drawing for all ages, ikebana, doll exhibit.
- Waimea Senior Center: Cherry Baked Goods Contest with community entries due 9:30 a.m. for 11 a.m. judging. Goods sold after winners announced to benefit Waimea Senior Citizens Club.
- Waimea Preservation Association: Waimea Outdoor Circle heirloom seed giveaway
- Thelma Parker Gym: Craft fair
Waimea School Field-Enter Lindsey Road/Back of Post Office
- Waimea Homestead Farmers Market: Pop-Up Yard Sale from Cars with a portion of proceeds benefitting Waimea Elementary and Middle Schools 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Parker School-Lindsey Road
- Waimea Town Market/Performing Arts: Outdoor market with fresh produce, food and artisan booths open 7:30 a.m.-noon with drum performances by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Kohala-Waimea at 10 and 11 a.m.
Pukalani Stables-Pukalani and Ala Ohia Roads
- Kamuela Farmers Market: Museum open house, farmer’s market, craft and food booths, cherry tree planting 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
W.M Keck Observatory Headquarters-Hwy. 19
- Solar Telescope Viewing: Keck and the West Hawaii Astronomy Club sets up solar telescopes for public viewing and answers questions 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the front lawn.
Kamuela Liquors-Hwy. 19
- Sake Tasting: Noon-3 p.m.
Ginger Farm- (old Anderson Homestead) MM 55 across from Puu Nani St. on Hwy. 19
- Japanese Home Tour/Tea Tasting/Craft: Self-guided tour through traditional Japanese-style home and garden. Cherry tea is served and art students assist attendees to make a cherry blossom-hanging scroll. Petting zoo.
Kukio Hale Hawaiian Homes-MM 55 on Hwy. 19
- Waimea Nui Farmer’s Market: 7 a.m.-noon
Waimea Country Lodge-Lindsey Road
- Offering discounted rates on deluxe, superior and standard rooms, plus kitchenettes, during the festival weekend; ask for promo code “Cherry Blossom 2017,” 808-885-4100.
Parker Ranch Historic Homes-Hwy. 190
- Free, self-guided tours of Mana Hale and Puuopelu from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Local Feather Hui offers feather displays and demonstrations.
The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced by the Hawaii County Parks and Recreation’s Culture and Education Section. Overseen by the park’s culture education administrator, Roxcie Waltjen, the festival is a community-wide effort by a dedicated team of volunteers, 808-961-8706.