WAIMEA, Hawaii – Many of Waimea’s 60-year-old cherry trees were in full bloom, as the North Hawaii town turned pink for the 21st annual cherry blossom festival.
Church Row Park was the center for the Japanese tradition of hanami – or viewing the blossoms. A number of other Japanese traditions were on display as well. There was bon dance, taiko drumming, and mochi tsuki pounding with the Kona Hongwanji Mission. And in the Kahilu Theater, there was a ritual Japanese tea ceremony.
And the day wasn’t just for the Japanese traditions. Hawaiian culture and a lion dance for Chinese New Year were also demonstrated.
As always, the dignitaries were found at the start of the day on the Festival Entertainment Stage in the back parking lot of the Parker a Ranch Center. Governor Neil Abercrombie even made the trip to be a part if the event. The state and local officials got into the spirit of the festival during the bon dance as well.
This year’s honored kupuna were Waimea residents Emiko Wakayama and Fumi Bonk. 81 year old “Emi” Wakayama has been involved with the Cherry Blossom Festival since it began. She has been on the organizing committee and has performed the traditional tea ceremonies. This year Wakayama oversaw 20 students who handled the ritual service known as chanoyu. Fumi Bonk is known in Hawaii as an artist, educator and advocate for peace and social justice. She was a founder of the Big Island Art Guild. Bonk first participated in the festival during its early years as a member of the local chapter of AARP, serving coffee at Church Row Park.
After the opening ceremonies, Governor Abercrombie joined Senators Malama Solomon and Gil Kahele nd Representative Cindy Evans on the front lawn of Historic Spencer House to plant a young cherry tree. The deed was in honor of lifelong Waimea resident, retired Judge and former Lt. Gov. Nelson Doi. Three more flowering cherry trees were planted on the front lawn of Waimea’s Department of Agriculture building at the entry to the Lalamilo Farmlot.
The annual Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is sponsored by many Waimea community groups, churches, temples, clubs and businesses in partnership with the County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation Arts and Culture Division.
This year’s bloom seemed extra vibrant – perhaps in response to the snow on Mauna Kea – inspiring poetic verse in attendees.