2017 Cherry Blossom Festival Star Party

Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge event where a large segment of the island population descends upon Waimea for a day of celebration. there are booths and events all across town. There are cultural demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, performances, and lots of food available for an all day, all town festival.

Solar Viewing
Viewing the Sun at the Cherry Blossom Festival
With most of the parking on the south side of Keck observatory, the shopping mall parking lots, and the main event venue north of Keck at Church Row where the cherry trees are, a huge number of people cross the observatory lawns on their way to the festival. It is a natural fit for us to use the day for an outreach event.

The festival is also a very local event. Sure there are a few tourists drawn to Waimea for a festival. But, by and large this is a local event, the majority of attendees are island residents.

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Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival

This weekend was Cherry Blossom Festival in Waimea!

There are a huge number of events, exhibits and vendors at multiple venues scattered across town. You really need to pick and choose what you want to see. In years past we had checked out the events at Parker Ranch Square or visited the historic Puʻu Opelu home at Parker Ranch. This year I started at church row, parking at Keck and walking over. The large lawn in front of the churches is really the center of the whole event, here are the cherry trees for which the festival is held.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms on a tree in Waimea
Actually the cherry trees were at their best last week. We have been enjoying them, they are right next door to Keck. There were still a few trees in blossom for the festival. Everyone stopping to take a few photos of the blossoms. Even better, the notoriously fickle Waimea weather produced an absolutely glorious day for this year’s festival.

The first event I look for on the schedule is Taiko drumming! This island boasts several excellent Taiko groups and performances are always a treat. This year I caught Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko’s early performance at church row. A chance to enjoy the performance, take some great photos, and just feel the pounding of the drums pass through you. One set was a great Shishi Mai (lion-dog) performance, the dancers interacting with the crowd.

Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko
Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko performs at the 2015 Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival
Food is available in abundance. Traditional Japanese fare at the Hongwanji Mission, cooking demonstrations from local resturant and resort chefs, and local island favorites everywhere. No problem getting lunch. Well, there was one problem… making a choice!

I particularly enjoyed a bonsai exhibit, there were some gorgeous examples of the art. I also visited the Hongwanji Mission, a Buddhist temple of the Jōdo Shinshū school. The building is almost next door to Keck, but I had never given it much thought.

The only downside of the festival is the traffic. Half the island comes to Waimea for the day, the result is no parking, near gridlock on the main street, and crowds everywhere. As with most of these Waimea events, get there early!