By Hiromi W. Chung
In Japan, cherry blossoms are symbolic of Japanese culture. Cherry blossom season occurs from the end of March to the beginning of April and in Hokkaido, it occurs much later. On the Big Island, the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is held on the first Saturday of February every year and it seems to be a major multicultural event.
My family and I went to the 25th annual festival in Waimea for the first time.
When we arrived in Waimea, it was about 9:30 a.m. but the parking lot was already full. We were finally able to find a parking space on the side of the road a little outside of the Parker Ranch Shopping Center and we walked back towards the center.
In the parking lot and inside the Parker Ranch Shopping Center nearly 150 crafters were selling various products such as bonsai, delicious popcorn, and T-shirts.
I saw many visitors and I heard different languages at the festival. I was surprised how attractive this festival was for so many people of different ethnicities and backgrounds.
While we were walking around the parking lot, we listened to bon dance songs and the sounds of drums.
As we came near to the circle, we saw a bon dance performance followed by a beautiful hula performance.
The festival offered a free shuttle service through Roberts Hawaii to the various venues every 15 minutes. However, since the venues were not far from each other, people could also walk to save time. We decided to take the shuttle to Church Row Park.
When our crowded shuttle arrived at the park, we saw more food booths as well as more people.
There was a long line of people waiting to eat delicious andagi in front of the Kamuela Hongwanji. Okinawan drums and lion dancers performed in the park. Since we had to go to Kona after the festival, we did not have time to get any food from the festival so we just took some family pictures near the cherry blossom trees.
In Japan, people gather to eat, drink, and sing songs underneath the blooming cherry blossoms. It is like a picnic which we call HANAMI.
Similarly, I saw some people eating lunch plates near cherry blossoms at Church Row Park. The people there seemed to enjoy HANAMI.
After having this experience, I would recommend getting to the festival earlier than 9:30 a.m. because accessible parking is very limited.
Enjoy happy multicultural event!