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2024 Downtown Akron Sakura Festival Welcomes 8,000 Visitors Amid Blossoming Trees


Category: Downtown Akron Blog

It’s not easy to predict when the sakura trees will bloom in downtown Akron—not when you’re not a horticulturist anyway, and believe it or not, Downtown Akron Partnership does not have a dedicated horticulturist on staff. Yet.

What we do have is a small group of people who love watching the cherry blossoms unfurl as much as we love downtown Akron itself (and if you know us, you know we really, really love downtown Akron), and who try our very best to schedule the festival in alignment with our amateur albeit enthusiastic predictions of the trees’ peak bloom time.

This year, luck was our friend, and the more than 450 cherry blossom trees that line the Towpath Trail through downtown Akron and Ohio & Erie Canal Park were plush with the most delicate, sweetly scented blush florets. It was an idyllic backdrop for visitors to enjoy performances, free crafts and activities, sakura-flavored sweets and beverages, and cool sunshine that lit the city on Saturday, April 6.

By our estimates, eight thousand people attended the 2024 Downtown Akron Sakura Festival. The two-and-a-half-mile event footprint was bursting with people for the duration of the six-hour celebration, with crowds buzzing at the Spaghetti Warehouse trailhead, Lock 2, the Lock 3 Commons, outside Williams Tower, and around the Mustill Store, which were designated hubs of activity.

Festival performances included Yume Daiko Drummers, Ryukyukoku Matsuri Taiko Drummers, Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese Dancers, Kendo and Iaido demonstrated by Kiraly Fencing, J-Art Band (a J-pop musical group), an original cherry blossom rap by NIHF STEM Middle School learner Michaela Koger, a Japanese tea ceremony, and koto performances by Mike Hovanscek.

Visitors patronized 16 different purveyors of food, among them downtown favorites El Patrón, Eddie’s Famous Cheesesteaks, and Cilantro and Boiling House, whose sushi was available at the Lock Stop Café next to the Lock 3 Commons. Chill Ice Cream & Indulge Chocolates, Muggswigz Coffee & Tea, Evelyn’s Coffee & Banh Mi, Cilantro, Boiling House, and Sweet Mary’s Bakery also offered sakura-themed goodies in their downtown storefronts.

20 retail vendors and three paid activity stations set up, and 11 free activities were available for people’s enjoyment, such as a wishing ribbon activity, Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), origami, and a Buddha Board painting with water activity.

Other notable attractions included the return of the beloved story walk featuring Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi, a history walk with information about Cascade Locks, a haiku display by NIHF STEM Middle School learners, sakura painting and candle-making activities at Street Craftery, a smartphone photography workshop by Akron ArtWorks, post-event fireworks thanks to the Akron RubberDucks, and engagement by Asian Services in Action, the Village Network, and College Now.

The main attraction, though, was the canopy of blooms above the Towpath. The trees were planted in 2011 and 2012 by the Japanese Association of Northeast Ohio (JANO) and the City of Akron, and each year, they herald the coming of spring, reminding us of life’s fleeting beauty. We are grateful to JANO for their gift to our neighborhood, and for their collaboration the past several years on this festival, which is beginning to take on a life of its own.

With numerous events in downtown Akron on the day of the festival, such as the Akron RubberDucks baseball game vs the Altoona Curve, the Akron Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky & Bowden at E.J. Thomas Hall, and Akron Bazaar’s first pop-up market of 2024 in the 159 Main building, not to mention the budding excitement for the total solar eclipse that would happen just two days later, it was a day, and weekend, alive with activity in the neighborhood.

The 2024 Downtown Akron Sakura Festival was made possible with support from the Knight Foundation, GAR Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Akron Community Foundation, the City of Akron, and Lock 3. Other community partners included the Japanese Association of Northeast Ohio (JANO), Asian Services in Action (ASIA), Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, Akron RubberDucks, Alpha Phi Alpha Homes, Inc., Akron Civic Commons, Cascade Locks Park Association, Akron Children’s Hospital, and Akron Children’s Museum.

Photos by Ramahn Wilder

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