By Stacey Shigaya

 

Hear the beat of the Taiko drums! Smell the delectable teriyaki burgers sizzling on the grill! See the vibrant colors of the marketplace goods, crafts and art! Sway along with the gentle, poised Japanese dancers!

Transport yourself a little closer to Japan at the Cherry Blossom Festival at Sakura Square in downtown Denver. This free festival is in its 45th year of celebrating Japanese culture and heritage. The festival is co-presented by the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple (www.tsdbt.org) and Sakura Foundation (www.sakurafoundation.org).

When festival goers step inside the Temple gates, they will be amazed at all the activities, including “Song, Art & Somen.”

SONG: The karaoke stage will be set for attendees to grab a mic and sing their hearts out. Karaoke in Japanese means “empty orchestra.” It is a form of vocal, interactive entertainment where lyrics are displayed on a screen and background music plays as one sings into a microphone. Singers of all abilities are welcome!

ART: A collection of talented local artists will demonstrate their techniques and display their Japanese-inspired work.   There will be an opportunity to interact with the artists and ask them what draws them to Japanese themes.

SOMEN: On a hot June day in Denver, nothing cools a person down quite like a chilled bowl of somen noodles! Japanese somen are thin, flour noodles served in a sauce called mentsuyu. Other snack treats available are gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), Spam musubi (grilled Spam on rice wrapped in seaweed) and a la carte teriyaki chicken.

The Temple gym will greet festivalgoers with the delicious aroma of teriyaki chicken and beef bowls. Those wanting light fare can feast on Asian chicken salad, Hawaiian macaroni salad and edamame (soybeans in the pod). Sushi and manju (a traditional Japanese confection) are longtime favorites. All of the delicious food offerings from the Temple are skillfully made by Temple members and volunteers.

While inside the Temple, visitors can view the beautiful ikebana and bonsai displays. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, dating back to the 7th century. Bringing humanity and nature together, Ikebana is a truly disciplined art form. Bonsai translates to “planted in a container” and has been a practiced art for well over a thousand years. The purpose of bonsai is to provide contemplation for the viewer and, for the grower, the pleasant exercise of ingenuity and effort. In addition, interesting talks on Buddhism will be conducted by Rev. Diana Thompson, Kaikyoshi Minister of the Temple.

The Live Stage presented by NHK WORLD is the place to connect with Japanese music, martial arts, and dance. The lineup will feature a combination of long-standing acts such as the Denver Buddhist Temple (DBT) dancers, demonstrations from DBT Judo, Aikido and DBT Karate, ukulele groups and the ever-popular Taiko groups. Karaoke Roulette is just one of the many new entertainment elements on the Live Stage. The schedule of performances will be posted on the festival website (www.cherryblossomdenver.org) to help plan your visit. While visitors soak in the entertainment and Denver sun, they can sip on specially crafted beers from Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery or try sake, a Japanese rice wine.

Another popular feature of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the Marketplace. A variety of vendors with Japanese and Japanese-inspired merchandise will line Lawrence Street. Merchandise for sale includes t-shirts, jewelry, tote bags, clothing, mixed-media prints, ceramics, and anime items.

 As vendors of the Denver Cherry Blossom Festival, we enjoy the community and how nice the organizers and staff are to us. They make sure our needs are met and they go above and beyond to ensure that we have everything to make the experience the best.   Being part of this event allows us to show our work and share our message with the people of Denver, making this one of our best events.  People should attend this show because it is very well done and fun for everyone in the family. – Alvin Ong, Furry Feline Creatives

Kids of all ages can get crafty at the free Kids’ Craft Area at 19th and Lawrence Streets. There they can learn Japanese words, make Cherry Blossom greeting cards, and have fun with other crafts.

 Want to take home a free souvenir from the festival? Just post a message about the Cherry Blossom Festival on social media, go to the Sakura Foundation booth in the marketplace, and show your post!

The coordinators and volunteers are working hard to bring Denver another outstanding Cherry Blossom Festival! Mark your calendars for June 24th and 25th, and visit www.cherryblossomdenver.org for details.

45th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

Sat, June 24th from 11am – 6pm

Sun, June 25th from 11am – 4pm

Downtown Denver at Sakura Square

19th and Lawrence Streets

www.cherryblossomdenver.org