WAIMEA, HAWAI‘I ISLAND—Church Row Park’s historic planting of cherry trees has turned the town pink and in celebration the new 2021Virtual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is available for viewing via Na Leo TV starting March 12. 

The virtual festival will air 7 p.m. March 12 on Spectrum TV Channel 53 or via online channel viewing at naleo.tv/channel-53. Watch the festival later at your convenience at naleo.tv/vod under the NLTV Exclusives tab or via the Na Leo TV mobile app available for free download from the Apple App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android). Watch a promo video clip: bit.ly/3v9EpsW.

Held annually the first Saturday of February at numerous Waimea venues, the usual, in-person Cherry Blossom Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19. Heralding the coming of spring, the festival has traditionally offered a full day of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, origami, traditional tea ceremony, fun mochi pounding and a host of colorful craft fairs. 

Produced by Na Leo TV and the Culture and Education Division of the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation, the 90-minute-long virtual version marks the festival’s 28th year. 

“The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival truly exemplifies how community, private enterprise and government work together for a common goal,” says Roxcie Waltjen, parks culture and education administrator and long-time festival organizer. “This year’s virtual celebration pays tribute to all those people, who over the course of the past 28 years, have generously contributed their time, effort, resources and knowledge to perpetuate the traditions of “Hanami,” or “Viewing of the Flowers in Springtime.”

 The video also shares the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms, a lineup of local entertainment typically enjoyed during the festival and messages from a variety of local dignitaries.

Featured virtual entertainers include Darlene Ahuna, Mark Yamanaka, Randy Lorenzo, Hawane Rios, Ho‘oko, Bending Elbows, Kris Fuchigami, Vaughn Valentino, Longakit ‘Ohana (Loeka & Pomai) and Taishoji Taiko. 

Reverend Daido Baba of Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin will give the opening prayer and Mayor Mitch Roth provides the welcoming virtual message. Other speakers include Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Ige, Japan Consul General Yutaka Aoki, Hawai‘i County Councilmembers Tim Richards and Sue Lee Loy, and Waltjen. 

“For the virtual experience, we have enhanced all interactive activities and made visuals available for more public viewing,” details Waltjen. “The video documents the festivalʻs history and cultural significance  and reaffirms the commitment of our island communities to overcome challenges in the face of adversity. We hope viewers enjoy this presentation as we begin to plan for the 2022 Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival!”

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced annually by the Culture and Education Division of the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation and presented by a host of community volunteers. Festival organizers look forward to a “live” festival in 2022. For info, phone 808-961-8706; find updates on facebook: WaimeaCherryBlossomHeritageFestival.