Drive down any tree-lined street in the Lower Mainland and you may notice throngs of people standing around, phones and cameras in hand snapping away. That’s because the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF) is officially underway, going on from April 3 until 29.
The VCBF non-profit society was founded in 2005 and the first event took place in 2006. Its aim is to unite residents, which span across several cultures, in celebration of the seasonal occurrence.
Enthusiastic volunteers known as “Cherry Scouts” scour city streets locating, recording and photographing the best examples. The result is an online, current viewing map covering 23 neighbourhoods in Vancouver, as well as an ornamental cherries guide to help readers identify the 35-or-so varieties found in the region.
The website also publishes up-to-date posts highlighting certain areas — for instance, there have been recent posts highlighting Akebono cherry trees at East 5th Avenue and Lillooet Street, and Rancho trees along Victoria Drive.
VCBF has spawned several community activities that take place all month long. This coming weekend, VanDusen Botanical Garden hosts the Sakura Days Japan Fair from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, where visitors can participate in hands-on calligraphy, origami and other Japanese arts and crafts workshops. Also on Saturday, April 14, Spring Lights Illumination is happening at sundown at Queen Elizabeth Park where cherry blossoms are lit up amongst special art installations.
Vancouver proper isn’t the only city celebrating sakura. A few days ago, the City of Richmond held a festival of its own at Garry Point Park near Steveston, home to 255 Akebono cherry trees planted by the BC Wakayama Kenjin Kai association. This year’s theme was harmony and featured live performances from a local taiko drum group and dancers.