Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival returns for another season

Events start on April 1 and go until the 23, with various activities for everyone

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is hosting events throughout Vancouver in April. (Submitted/Joseph Lin)

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is hosting events throughout Vancouver in April. (Submitted/Joseph Lin)

Spring has arrived in British Columbia, and that means the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF) is returning for its 18th annual celebration on Saturday, April 1 to Sunday, April 23. 

The VCBF’s theme this year is “Cultivating the Blossoms of our Cultures,” expressing the value of cultural exchange and friendship. 

“The friendship theme is very important for us. We want to make Vancouver a more connected city,” says Linda Poole, founder and creative director of the festival. 

Poole created the festival to celebrate this annual natural phenomenon. After becoming friends with the Japanese Ambassador who spoke of the Sakura, or cherry blossom, festivals in Japan, her desire to develop a festival in Vancouver sparked. 

“I’ve always loved the cherry blossom, so I thought to myself when I got back home, why don’t I start a festival like they do in Japan?” 

Poole launched the festival as “Cherry Jam” in 2005 at Burrard station, offering a haiku poem contest and some Taiko drumming. 

Now VCBF is a multi-faceted, multicultural festival, hosting events throughout the month of April  with funding from both provincial and private sponsorship. 

“The cherry blossom is almost part of our identity now,” Poole says. 

“It resonated with everyone [in] how much they love the cherry blossoms, it’s a new season, it’s new beginnings, [and] such a positive feeling. And [people] realize it’s not every city where you can have cherry blossoms and a festival to celebrate them.” 

While countries like Japan and the United States have similar festivals, the Vancouver festival is more art and culture based, she says. 

At The Big Picnic, which will take place on April 1 at David Lam Park, people can enjoy food under cherry blossom trees and order from local food vendors nearby, pre-order a Blossom Bento, or bring their own food. A special tree dedication ceremony featuring representatives from the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations will also be held. 

There will also be opportunities to hold a silk worm with City Farmer, watch live outdoor painting, partake in creative workshops like printmaking or Furoshiki, which is Japanese gift wrapping with fabric, and listen to live music from local bands. 

Bike The Blossoms, a group bike ride through East Van’s blossom routes, will also be at the festival. There is also a Sakura Days Japan Fair on April 15 and 16, which offers traditional Japanese cultural experiences like drinking sake, taiko drumming, and ikebana (flower art). 

The event offers various forms of art like the Haiku Invitational poem contest, which is being held until June 1 online, Indigenous artwork, and guided Tree Talks & Walks for learning about trees.

With pop-up events happening across the city, Poole already has plans to expand next year to different neighbourhoods. 

“It would be very cool if we start having this cross-pollination where if we’re in Chinatown and then we go to Fraser and we take stories or talent from that neighbourhood to the other one, we’ll get this cross-pollination and deeper relationships and knowledge,” she says. 

“People are really invested … you can’t help but feel the love and energy that’s put into this festival, through all the individuals.”