Video by Paroma Soni and Sarah Chung
A long-awaited spring is finally in bloom after a difficult year for New York City. With pandemic restrictions slowly lifting citywide as the weather improves, more spring activities are becoming available for New Yorkers and their families. Among them is the cherished cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which opened this weekend.
Last year, the spectacular cherry trees bloomed without an audience. This year, the Garden opened its doors to the public so hanami, ”the Japanese cultural tradition of savoring every moment of the cherry blossom season, can return,” according to its latest press release. There will also be a number of in-person special events and concerts open to ticketed visitors.
For the next four weeks, the botanical garden is hosting ‘Art in the Garden,’ a program with dance and music performances every Saturday and Sunday until May 9. This weekend’s first event was a set of traditional Japanese dance pieces by Sachiyo Ito & Company, welcoming spring and celebrating the bloom of sakura trees. Ito has been performing at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s cherry blossom festival for almost 30 years, and while this year’s event is modified due to COVID-19 protocols, her piece opened to a thrilled audience of several dozen people.
“The cherry blossoms are very connected to memory and family for me, and all of us in Japan,” said Noriko Rio. She moved from Kyoto to Brooklyn four years ago with her husband and young son and said the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens have become a home away from home for them. “The Garden has done a lovely job of the space, preserving our cherished culture even in these times,” her husband added.
The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, a longstanding local favorite, had shuttered its doors last March, but reopened in August 2020 with limited entry and renewed COVID-19 safety protocols. Admission to the park in recent months has been far lower than in years past, but the blooming of the cherry trees and resumption of events heralds new hope for the community.
The Spring Weekends lineup in the coming weeks includes more Japanese performances, including pop bands like SAKAI & RINO, as well as multicultural events like the Brownstone Jazz Ensemble, an Afro-Cuban Dance with Tony Domenech, and a Bomba workshop celebrating Puerto Rican dance history. Many of the events take place on the breathtaking Cherry Esplanade or the Osborne Garden, where visitors can sit amidst the pink blooms.