From an afternoon of Japanese musical performances to traditional tea ceremonies, family picnics under the cherry blossoms, and a Japanese cultural fair, our little ship in the East River was once again abloom last Saturday, April 21, with visitors from both near and far, for the annual RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival.
A record of over 10,000 attendees, including elected officials from across our City and State – as well as members of the Japanese Mission to the U.S. – followed the groves of the Sakura, or cherry blossom trees, lining the southern promenade of our Island to the entrance of Southpoint and Four Freedoms Park. They joined our Island neighbors and visitors alike to admire the beauty and arrival of spring and to celebrate the diversity that makes our home so unique.
Festivities started at 11:00 a.m. with traditional tea ceremonies and a community picnic and ended with Japanese Taiko drummers later that afternoon. Indeed, this year’s festival had a little bit of something to offer everyone. From an origami workshop and traditional kimono try-ons at Gallery RIVAA to performances of Japanese folk dances, contemporary Japanese blues, and our very own MST&DA Community Dancers at Four Freedoms Park, we welcomed over 70 performers and artists spanning the globe, from as far away as Japan.
We hope you were able to join us for this year’s celebration to enjoy the blooming of the cherry blossoms that are so prevalent on our tiny Island, and to celebrate the rich socio-economic and racial diversity that makes up our community. If not, make sure to be on the lookout for next year’s festival which promises to be even greater.
Many thanks go to Lydia Tang, this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival Committee chair, and Lynn Shinozaki, chair of the RIRA Social Cultural and Educational Committee, for their hard work in pulling the event together, as well as the more than 150 volunteers who helped to pull off the event throughout the Island.
Our deepest thanks and appreciation also go to our event sponsors and partners, without whose human capital and financial support this year’s event would not have been possible – especially RIOC for being our event partner and providing the many man hours and event infrastructure that allowed this year’s festival to go off without a hitch, Four Freedoms Park and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy for hosting this year’s performances and providing an idyllic setting, Hudson Related for their continued financial support, the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, which provided transport for the Cherry Blossom Festival operations, Main Street Theater & Dance Alliance, Gallery RIVAA, and the countless donors to this year’s event who covered the needs and expenses in varying capacities.
But first and foremost, we want to thank all of you, our Island neighbors, families and friends – together, Roosevelt Island put its best foot forward and, once again, welcomed the world to our little ship in the East River.
It is because of all of you that Roosevelt Island is, and continues to be, a jewel in our New York City community.
Jeff Escobar, President
RI Residents Association