From: Fern Gavelek Communications, (808) 329-0833
Media Contact: Roxcie Waltjen, Culture and Education Administrator, 
Hawai‘i County Dept. of Parks and Recreation, (808) 961-8706

WAIMEA, HAWAI‘I ISLAND—Headquartered from Church Row Park and Parker Ranch Center, the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is planning in-person festivities 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Following Covid-19 safety protocols, the 29th annual festival will be scaled down to less venues and allow for social distancing; masks will be required by attendees. 

Spend the day to experience a lineup of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, traditional tea ceremony, and outdoor craft vendors. Festivities kick off with a blessing on the main entertainment stage behind Parker Ranch Center. Roberts Hawaii will provide free shuttle between Church Row Park and Parker Ranch Center.

The 2022 festival honors the late Kikuko Kibe and volunteer J. Jay West, both of Waimea. Kikuko Kibe delighted festival-goers for two decades by teaching the young and old the art of origami. The Japanese native was skilled in paper folding and she demonstrated how to craft cranes, tulips, boats, animals, and balloons using colored paper for festival attendees. Favorites were the airplane “popper,” which was folded to catch air and pop when shook, and the “paku paku” moveable finger toy. Happy participants walked away from her table at the Kamuela Hongwanji with their creations and free patterns to make more.

“My mother liked interacting with the kids and adults and she really enjoyed how the kids had fun when creating something,” says daughter June Kibe of New Jersey. “She was especially pleased how kids came back year after year, looking for her to do more origami. She looked forward to that.”

 A former school teacher, Mrs. Kibe also loved Hawaiian quilting, volunteering as an instructor at Sew Fun in Honoka’a, tai chi, and singing with the Waimea Consort. The mother of two and grandmother of four died April 8, 2021; she was 89. 

 J. Jay West has been involved with the festival since 1996. As a member of the Waimea Arts Council (WAC), she spearheaded the formation of the Firehouse Gallery into a prominent festival venue.

The Waimea resident and artist at Peak Art Gallery encouraged the growth of the Firehouse Galleryʻs annual Cherry Blossom Art Exhibition to include over 25 local artists, instituted the creation of a yearly festival art poster, organized hands-on art activities for young and old festival attendees, and set up engaging artist demonstrations. West also brought in community theatre performances and arranged for food to be sold to hungry festival-goers, which included participating in the formation of a cherry-themed bake sale at the next door Senior Center.

After being involved with the festival for a few years, West took on the added responsibility of helping the late Dolly Loo produce the festivalʻs printed booklet, which is handed out each year at festival venues. She has been involved with overseeing the design and printing of the free publication for almost 20 years and is retiring from this duty as of the 2022 festival. West is turning over the ropes to WAC member Kathy Sprinkle.

 “Iʻll continue to participate in the annual Cherry Blossom Art Show at the Firehouse Gallery,” notes West. And while she is passing the baton to another, West values what the festival brings to the community. 

“The festival fosters an appreciation of the Japanese and Hawaiian ancestry of which the Waimea community was built,” she explains. “It also showcases many of the communityʻs non-profits, all on one day of the year.”

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced by the Hawai‘i County Parks and Recreation’s Culture and Education Section. The event is a community-wide effort by a dedicated team of volunteers.   

For info, 808-961-8706; find updates on Facebook: WaimeaCherryBlossomHeritageFestival.


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