If it’s June, then you know the Cherry Blossom Festival is coming up. Dating back to the early seventies, this popular summer event in Denver is a fun-filled day of music, food, dance and shopping for the entire family. Head to LoDo on Lawrence Street. Find the festival site in Sakura Square between 19th and 20th Streets. Admission to the festival couldn’t be more affordable… it’s free.
History and Heritage of Japanese American Culture
Throughout the day you’ll be entertained by performances of martial arts, Japanese dance, koto and shamisen. Enter the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple to see bonsai and flower arrangement (ikebana) exhibits.
When hunger strikes, and you know it will with all of the delicious aromas that will be enveloping the area, go to the gymnasium. Teriyaki chicken dinner plates, sushi, and beef bowls will nourish the body for the rest of the day’s activities. Asian veggie burgers, teriyaki burgers and chilled somen will also be available, along with the good old hot dog that is always a treat on a warm day.
To top off the meal, make sure to sample the manju and mocha for a sweet Japanese treat. Complimentary green tea will be available, but if you’d rather have a cold drink, you should head to the beer garden for sake or beer.
At 7:00 pm, the Obon folk dance will start. This draws a lot of interest. In fact, so many people enjoy the colors and sounds of the dances that the practices that are held during the week prior to the festival are open to the public.
Obon is a Buddhist tradition of honoring ancestors; it includes a traditional dance, the Bon-Odori. You don’t have to be dressed in a hapi coat or kimono to join in the dance, but you can if you want to learn the dances beforehand, Denver Minyo Kai will be teaching and accessories will be sold at the practices.
A benefit raffle with a prize of $3,000 will make some lucky person happy that they registered. The winning ticket holder won’t have to be present to win.
Approximately 40 booths will be set up along Lawrence Street. Some of the booths are informational so you can learn about the JA community, but the rest will have selections of Asian-inspired pottery, fine art, handmade jewelry, anime and books, vintage kimono, dolls, Japanese Hawaiian T-shirts and more.
The first Cherry Blossom Festival in Denver was held in 1972. The culture and heritage of the Front Range and Japanese Americans is celebrated with food, drink, entertainment, arts and crafts. For those new in the area or those who are just visiting, demonstrations and informative exhibits will help you broaden your knowledge of one of the many groups of people who make Denver their home.
If You Go
For more information on the 2012 Cherry Blossom Denver Festival, visit the website at www.cherryblossomdenver.org or call the Denver Buddhist Temple at 303-295-1844.
Photo of drummers from 2011 festival by Flickr user Nathan-t8to.
Photo of Japanese dance from the 2011 festival courtesy of the Denver Cherry Blossom Festival.