Swarthmore Community Celebrates Third Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

Courtesy of Shinz Jo Ooi

On April 6, students and local community members celebrated the third annual Cherry Blossom Festival as part of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month event series. Organized by the Swarthmore Pan-Asian Association (SPAA), and in collaboration with the APIDA Heritage Planning Committee, the festival showcased performances by SwatJeans, Drake Roth ’25, Gamelan Semara Santi, Mixed Company a capella group, Chinese Music Ensemble Trio, Kalā, and the Swarthmore Taiko Ensemble.

SPAA Head of Outreach Min Fruman ’24, who also performed with the Swarthmore Taiko Ensemble, shared that the sense of community was the most fulfilling part of performing.

“It’s really great to have the chance to perform for all your friends and everyone you know. Sometimes you’re preparing for the event and worrying about whether no one is going to go or if it’s going to rain,” Fruman said. “But then it happens, and there’s so much joy you can feel from people, especially kids who come.”

“On a more personal level, I’m good friends with many people in taiko,” Fruman added. “Getting to share this event with them, because also a lot of us are seniors, every chance we get to do this is really special.”

Similarly, SwatJeans member Hannah Lee ’27 said the most memorable part of the event was the audience’s enthusiasm for her performance. 

 “The fulfilling moment is when you see all the audience, and they applaud when you’re done.” 

As an attendee, Lee enjoyed the free food offered by the Kona Ice Truck and Korea Taqueria Food Truck.

“I really liked how the clubs were out again, and they had snacks,” Lee added. “I liked how the event was open to the public, and I saw a lot of little babies enjoying the moment with their parents and taking photos. I thought it was really cute.”

Emmanuel Olusheki ’27 shared that he attended the festival because of his coursework in taiko drumming and to watch SwatJeans’ performance.  

“I was interested in the taiko performance,” Olusheki said. “I’m taking taiko as a P.E. class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the instructor endorsed the performance as, ‘If you want to see what good taiko looks like, you should go to the Cherry Blossom Festival.’ For that and free food.”

SPAA Co-Presidents Olive Han ’25 and Chloe Kanemaru ’26 discussed their involvement with the festival’s initial inception in Spring 2022 and the motivations that led to the event’s creation.

“The first Cherry Blossom Festival was in 2022 during my first year at the APIDA Heritage Month Committee,” Han said. “We thought we could do something that has strong Asian traditions and turn it into something that could build stronger community bonds for the entire pan-Asian community.”

“This event really lives up to our name as an umbrella organization,” Kanemaru added. “It is completely student-run with performances, vendors, tables, and outside organizations. This year’s event was in support of the Students for the Preservation of Chinatown and the Ginger Art Center.”

APIDA committee member Akira Tanglao-Aguas ’27 shared the importance of celebrating APIDA Heritage Month.

“Through APIDA Heritage Month, you’re able to celebrate what makes you different. A lot of people misconstrue Asian Ameircans as being a monolith, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Tanglao-Aguas said. “It’s such a diverse array of cultures and histories, and it’s something we often don’t get to celebrate because of the model minority myth or being seen as only smart people who keep their head down.”

When asked about plans for future Cherry Blossom Festivals, Han and Kanemaru emphasized keeping the event student-centered, as it makes the festival lively and engaging.

“Other things are ensuring that we have a proper soundcheck,” Han added. “This time, I know we had a few technical difficulties that we want to try to avoid next year. But I think we’re on a linear path of steadily increasing our scale. We’ve slowly started adding more things so that the community members have activities to partake in and enjoy.”

Lee offered recommendations for future organizers, including reserving a practice space for performers and setting up a free photo booth at the event.

“We got kicked out of practice spaces because they were always reserved. It was difficult because we didn’t know if it was available, and we were short on time. If the organizers can reserve a space and give us a time slot, it would definitely be helpful in the future.”

Fruman offered similar advice for future organizers, inviting more community members to get involved with the festival. 

“Whenever new organizations come in and have a table, or new performers, the festival draws in more people and becomes more joyful,” Fruman said.

Kanemaru and Han invited more Swarthmore students to become involved with next year’s festival.

“If you’re interested in helping out, like organizing big events to celebrate the Asian community on campus, please join SPAA. We would be more than happy to welcome you into our organization,” Han added.

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