For nearly half a century, Sakura Square has been the home of Denver’s Cherry Blossom Festival, which is the largest outdoor Japanese and Japanese American (JA) festival in the region. This year the 47th Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd. It is an annual summer celebration that brings Japanese and JA heritage, culture and community to the greater metro area. The free festival, which is open to the public, attracts 25,000 to 35,000 people annually from all walks of life who share a common interest in Japanese arts, food, entertainment and merchandise. For our local Japanese and JA community, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival represents an important opportunity for many of our organizations to work together in sharing our culture with the public. Festival attendees will be entertained by martial arts demonstrations, Taiko drum performances and Japanese music and dancing. For those hungry for Japanese food and refreshment, they can enjoy the Temple’s famous grilled teriyaki chicken, sushi, somen (chilled noodles), gyoza (dumplings), teriyaki burgers, sake and Japanese beer. The festival marketplace will offer an opportunity to purchase a wide array of Japanese-themed merchandise from vendors from Colorado and all over the United States. Clothing, jewelry, artwork, pottery, plants and much more will be available.
For over four decades, the Cherry Blossom Festival was organized and run by volunteers from the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple and was its major fundraiser. In 2015 the co-chairs of the Temple Cherry Blossom Festival Committee retired after leading the planning and organization of the event for multiple years. There was concern that the festival might not be able to take place in their absence. Sakura Foundation was approached to co-present the festival. Understanding the need to support the Temple and the importance of maintaining engagement within the Temple membership and local community, the foundation gladly stepped forward to work together with the Temple in managing and organizing the event. Sakura Foundation took on the responsibility and expenses associated with managing and running all of the festival activities which occur outside the Temple, including the entertainment, parking and marketplace booths and vendors. In addition, the Foundation assumed the tasks and expenses of the festival promotion, security, sponsorships, equipment rentals and securing permits and licensing. This arrangement relieved the Temple of the majority of the festival expenses and allowed it to focus on activating the areas inside the Temple building by providing food, exhibits, lectures and a raffle. Since the partnership began four years ago, the festival has experienced record growth, attendance and revenue for the Temple. Sakura Foundation’s mission, to sustain the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple and celebrate Japanese American heritage, culture and community, provided the guidance and motivation to co-present the festival with the Temple.
Although the festival lasts two days, it takes the effort of an army of volunteers working countless hours in organizing and facilitating the event each year. In addition, Sakura Foundation management and staff begin their planning and preparation more than six months in advance of the festival. At the end of the festival each year, the feelings of exhaustion and relief are overshadowed by the great sense of accomplishment and exhilaration in watching our community come together to present this important event. The success of the Cherry Blossom Festival has always been the result of the hard work of our many volunteers and community organizations who work together, the generous donations from our sponsors and donors, the many marketplace vendors and exhibitors who travel from near and far and, most importantly, the attendance of all those who come each year to share our culture. Thank you to everyone for your continued support of the Cherry Blossom Festival!
During the redevelopment of Sakura Square and the Temple, we will work together to make certain the Cherry Blossom Festival continues in some form, even during the construction period.
June 22 and 23, 2019
Saturday, 11am to 6:00pm
Sunday, 11:00 am to 4:00pm
Sakura Square at 19th and Lawrence Streets in downtown Denver
FREE admission and open to the public