Caira Archer, visiting from Sacramento, takes a selfie among the cherry blossoms at the Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday at Barnes Park.
Amid the festivities were messages of reflection and healing following the Jan. 21 mass shooting at a nearby dance studio that left 11 people dead.

MONTEREY PARK — Among the attractions at this year’s Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival was a welcome sense of healing, as the two-day event was held just a few short blocks from the site of January’s horrific mass murder.

Monterey Park native Jasmine Shackleford, who spent Saturday afternoon at the festival along with her sister, Jocelyn, and their friend Shane Marcus, said the pain is still fresh and raw in the city, but the gathering will help along the communal sense of recovery.

Alex, Ann and Andrea made it a family trip from Monrovia, and added their thoughts to the wishing tree.
Young Tsuyako donned traditional wear and hair accents for her day at the park.

“When I woke up this morning, there was still some thoughts of fear, but it’s nice to see everyone here, things slowly getting back to normal,” she said.

Jocelyn added, “People need this, to take their minds off what happened and feel safe again.”

The festival returned to Barnes Park near City Hall, after a three-year, pandemic-induced hiatus. Thousands attended the celebration of Japanese and Asian Pacific Islander culture that featured live performances ranging from classical Japanese dancing to taiko drumming and contemporary music, karate demonstrations and hula dancing.

Exhibits featured calligraphy artwork, traditional tea ceremony, and a presentation honoring Japanese American veterans.

Kids’ activities included crafts like figure painting as well as sports and games.

The Cherry Blossom Festival Marketplace boasted a host of vendors offering unique merchandise, information and assistance on health, social, education and consumer issues, as well as plenty of tasty food.

As though on cue, the several cherry blossom trees at the park were in full bloom, adding to the sense of healing and serenity.

Story and photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo

Left: Kids learned how to fold origami cranes, a symbol of peace. Right: A candy sculpture served as a complement to Totoro attire.
Elemental Funk closed out Saturday’s music schedule with classic songs that got visitors, including dance instructor Toru Nagao, out of their seats and onto the dance floor.
Guy Higashi, left, and Phillip Chan flip burgers to help raise funds for Mission Valley Methodist Church’s Boy Scout Troop 365.
Jasmine Shackleford, her sister Jocelyn and friend Shane Marcus admire the blooming cherry blossoms.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *