Cherry Blossom Festival returns on March 7

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Japanese cherry blossom trees are in bloom in March 2019 near the Exchange Street Parking Plaza. – File photo by The Sentinel-Record

The third annual Cherry Blossom Festival will return to Hot Springs next month, with the goal of raising money to help send local students to Japan.

The event will highlight Japanese culture, offering Japanese-inspired entertainment and food.

Fifteen local students and two local teachers will travel to Hanamaki, Japan, Hot Springs’ sister city, this June. Mary Zunick, executive director of the Hot Springs Sister City Program, said the trip wouldn’t be possible without donations and the festival, its largest fundraiser, will help send 11 Garland County students on the overseas trip.

Zunick said the festival serves two purposes: to raise enough money to send the students to Japan, and to “highlight Japanese culture,” including its food, drinks, music and dances.

The festival is themed after the cherry blossom trees that bloom in March in Japan. “In Japan, when cherry blossoms bloom, it’s kind of like a holiday,” Zunick said, noting families will go and have picnics underneath the trees.

While there are cherry blossom trees in Hot Springs — they can be found in front of the Exchange Street Parking Plaza and at Garvan Woodland Gardens — Zunick said the festival will be held indoors due to the unpredictable weather.

The event has been a success in the past, raising around $12,000 last year, Zunick said, noting the goal was to raise $10,000. Around 120 people attended last year and they are aiming for 200 attendees this year.

Those who attend will get to eat Japanese food — and both adventurous eaters and those less willing to try new things will find food to eat, Zunick said. “It’s not all sushi.”

While the menu hasn’t been confirmed yet, Zunick said they are looking at several dishes including mochi and curry. “Plenty to choose for unadventurous eaters,” she said.

For an extra charge, attendees can also do a “Sake Experience,” an educational program where people can learn more about the alcoholic drink, she said. “Sake can be very intimidating” and most people don’t know how it is supposed to be consumed, she said, noting the purpose of this experience is to “educate people.”

Those who purchase the “Sake Experience” will not be buying the alcoholic drink, Zunick said, but sake will be served at the festival to adults of drinking age with the price of admission.

Zunick said there will also be several demonstrations at the festival including a performance by the Bon Odori dancers from Hot Springs Village and a kimono fashion show. She said kimono styles differ based on the age of the wearer and the occasion and the fashion show will show the different kinds and the occasions when they are worn.

Zunick said the students being benefited will help out in several ways with the fundraiser, including selling tickets, and will be at the event volunteering.

The festival will be held from 6-9 p.m. March 7 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 228 Spring St., on the second floor. Tickets are $40 for adults, $10 for students and children aged 11 to 18. Children 10 and younger are admitted free.

VIP tables can also be reserved for $500. These cover admission, and the “Sake Experience” for eight people, and will have better seating for the presentations. The “Sake Experience” costs $25.

Local on 02/07/2020

Print Headline: Cherry Blossom Festival returns on March 7

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