Lisa Bakerink’s enthusiasm for the Cherry Blossom Kite and Piñata Festival is almost palpable, even through email.
It’s hard for the executive director of the Springfield Sister Cities Association to pick a favorite part of the event, a springtime tradition for about 20 years now.
“I love everything about this event,” Bakerink said. “Cultural stage performances with kites flying in the background, piñata whacking, food, botanical- and cultural-related activities and crafts, and people of all ages having a great time! The view from the Botanical Center rooftop is a must! And don’t forget to take in the beauty of all the spring flowers!”
You can see all this for yourself Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Springfield Botanical Gardens, located inside Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. Admission is free. The Cherry Blossom Kite and Piñata Festival celebrates Springfield’s sister city relationship with and the cultures of Isesaki, Japan, and Tlaquepaque, Mexico.
Bring your own kite, or buy a ‘frustrationless flyer’
As the name suggests, guests at the event are invited to fly kites on the Botanical Gardens’ big lawn. You can bring your own kite, or purchase and decorate a kite — Bakerink calls them “frustrationless flyers” — for $7.
“They are mostly preassembled by the wonderful Japanese language students at Kickapoo High School under the guidance of their teacher and SSCA volunteer, Kazumi Holcomb,” Bakerink said. “We have a station where kids can color and decorate them with stickers before flying on the great lawn south of the Botanical Center during the event.”
As for the piñatas, children can line up to take a whack at one every half-hour.
“A craft representing Mexico is also available for purchase for $3,” Bakerink said. “Children may make the craft at our assembly tent, or take it home to make there.”
Festival features food, souvenirs and live entertainment
But that’s far from all there is to do at the Cherry Blossom Kite and Piñata Festival. Guests can explore the Botanical Gardens, which are coming alive with spring blooms. Admission to the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden is free from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (The usual fee is $5 for adults and $3 for children.) The historic Gray-Campbell Farmstead, meanwhile, will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entertainment is scheduled throughout the day, and guests are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets. The live cultural performances include:
- Lancaster Station, 11:10 a.m.
- KSU Tatsumaki Yosakoi, 12:10 p.m.
- Grupo Latinoamericano, 12:45 p.m.
- Marimba Caliente, 1:45 p.m.
- Kizuna Japan America Friendship Club, 2:45 p.m.
- Springfield Cosplay, 3:35 p.m.
There will also be a mini market featuring Japanese and Mexican snacks, candies, beverages and souvenirs. Food will be available for purchase, too, from Xurros, Omo Japanese Soul Food, Springfield-Greene County Park Board concessions and more.
Sharing their vision of ‘peace through people’
Bakerink said the Cherry Blossom Kite and Piñata Festival is a way for the SSCA and the Park Board to provide a fun, free, family event and to meet their mission of providing high-quality educational and outdoor opportunities for Springfield residents at little to no cost.
“It is important to provide these kinds of opportunities that anyone, regardless of circumstances, can come and enjoy,” she added. “The event is one of four annual SSCA events where we can share culture and our vision of peace through people.”
Want to go?
What: 2023 Cherry Blossom Kite and Piñata Festival
When: Saturday, April 1, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Springfield Botanical Gardens, 2400 S. Scenic Ave.
For more information: Visit the Springfield Sister Cities Association website, or call 417-874-2962.