With the virtual nature of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in 2020 and continued socially distanced plans for the festival in 2021, these recent festivals will certainly be events to remember. Incidentally, our volunteers are no strangers to quickly shifting plans and accommodating needs on the fly. PR/Marketing Committee Co-Chair, Jane Yu, reflects on her most memorable Cherry Blossom Festival experience and the incredible work of our other volunteers–past & present.
It seemed ages since I was first involved with the Festival. The year was 2015 – well, I guess maybe not THAT long ago. I was a media sponsorship liaison to the Festival before I was recruited as a volunteer. From there, I became the Co-Chair to the PR/Marketing Committee for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.
One of my most memorable volunteer experiences was during the big 50th anniversary. With the number 5-0, there were high expectations for perfection. The committees had designed new programs like special performances from Japan, the photobook, and even a Japanese sit-down comedy (Rakugo)!
On the last day of the Festival, we always had the Grand Parade, and it had to be even grander than previous years to amplify the 50th. The Grand Parade always had spectacular floats, Taiko drumming, lively performances, and traditional dances. During the 50th Grand Parade, we were to expect a completely new element – the rain. California, at that time, had been in a drought for 3 years and we just so happened to have this timely rain scheduled to downpour during the days of the Festival.
I had expected empty streets and cancellations from performers on the day of the Grand Parade due to the severe weather. 9AM rolled around and people started to gather towards the street carrying umbrellas, ponchos, wearing trash bags, etc. to keep covered from the rain while they waited patiently for the Grand Parade to start. And the Grand Parade did not start until 3 hours afterwards! Yet people still waited with high anticipation in the pouring rain! This support from the community, from the people, to the Festival was so strong that regardless of rain or shine, they will be there.
I remember noon arrived, and at the horizon of Post Street, you can see faint shadows of the performers, unwaveringly by the weather, marching, dancing, and singing in the rain. This was all done in their traditional attire – Japanese sandals (Geta), fans, dresses, and all! These performers were soaked in their attire, but you can hear the excitement and the cheers from the audience towards these performers who marched from Civic Center to Japantown in the cold windy weather. This dedication is unique and astonishing. These performers put in so much effort and spirit into their performances it kept the parade and the Festival alive, despite the weather. This energy and this dedication is the reason why I love volunteering for this Festival every year. This sense of community also really resonates from every volunteer in this Festival.
In these uncertain times, our volunteers have been working endlessly to incorporate the spirit of the Festival into different virtual components. I am excited to see our hard work come into fruition this coming year in hopes that we can produce the same level of energy and the same sense of community as we have successfully done in previous years.
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival relies on our amazing volunteers, like Jane, who work tirelessly each year on marketing, sponsorships, and more. If you would like to get involved, contribute to the community, and develop new skills, we’re always looking for new volunteers to join us! Sign up at bit.ly/PRMarketingVolunteers, and we will set up a virtual meeting to get started. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.