By Jim Tortolano
On a picture perfect spring-like day in Huntington Beach’s Central Park, the fourth annual Cherry Blossom Festival ushered in the new season a day early with a huge crowd, lilting music, a wide variety of food and a bit of a traffic jam.
Cars idled in long lines to turn into the park; pedestrians hoofed it in from blocks away to take part in this event sponsored by the Sister City Association of Huntington Beach. The festival celebrated the 35th anniversary of a friendly cross-Pacific relationship between the Surf City and Anjo, Japan.
Association President Frank Nakabayashi pronounced the attendance as “Fabulous! It’s a great turnout.” Among the many locals who pushed their strollers and walked their dogs to the park at Goldenwest Street and Talbert Avenue was a strong leavening of Japanese nationals.
“We have Anjo city delegations here, four of them this time,” said Nakabayashi, himself born in Japan but now a U.S. citizen and a resident for 53 years.
The event began at 11 a.m. and ran until 5 p.m. Visitors sat under the flowery cherry trees on the slope near the library, or gathered in lines to dine at a number of food trucks selling Japanese and Korean food. Entertainment in the form of music, dance and story telling was provided from the nearby bandstand, and there were booths giving out information about the city, the Sister City Association and other civic and cultural organizations.
One of the main functions of the SCA is to send and host delegations of high school students between Huntington Beach and Anjo to foster better international relations and build new friendships. Over 500 students have taken part in the exchange program that began in 1982. There have been other benefits of the connection with Anjo. In addition to the 50 cherry trees for the park donated by Anjo, that city donated $92,000 to the rebuilding of the Huntington Beach Pier after the storm damage of 1990.
Anjo is a city of about 183,000 residents in the Aichi Prefecture. Huntington Beach also has a sister city relationship with Manly, a beach city of 15,000 people in the state of New South Wales. It’s a suburb of Sydney and is home to a lively surfing culture.
Categories: Huntington Beach
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