Hawaii’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with virtual series of events

Hawaii's annual Cherry Blossom Festival will go on -- but with new changes in place

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 69th Cherry Blossom Festival officially kicked off with the reveal of this year’s queen contestants.

The theme of this year’s festival is kibou, which means “hope” in Japanese.

Eleven queen contestants were selected and have already begun a series of cultural and personal development classes, which also include instruction in taiko, tea ceremony, Japanese business etiquette and public speaking.

To fit in line with current guidelines, instructors and contestants have been meeting virtually for their classes.

It’s been quite an experience for long-time volunteers like Lillian Yajima.

Every year, the contestants go to Yajima’s home where she teaches them origami and how to make manju, a Japanese dessert.

Because of COVID, she’s instructing them remotely.

“It was pretty easy because I just did what I usually do and pretend the girls are around me,” said Yajima. “I’m watching, I can’t actually see that closely, but I can see them at their own home, they ask me a question and I can answer right there.”

The Cherry Blossom Festival released a statement addressing the adjustments they have made to keep the event running:

“While this year’s changes were unexpected, the instructors have graciously adapted, and the experience continues to be meaningful and positive for the contestants. To them, we are very appreciative of their commitment to the Festival and continuing to share their gift.”

If the city & county regulations allow, the contestants will also take part in various public appearances and community service events around the island.

The Cherry Blossom Festival Ball will be held on April 3 at 4 p.m. at Sheraton Waikiki.

This year, they’re offering the option to watch the festival ball and coronation from a newly renovated room at the hotel.

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