When the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, taking place from March 20 to April 13, announced its eight 2014 Goodwill Ambassadors, Sarah Santana (COL’16) was among those chosen to serve as a liaison between D.C. university students and the festival.
A double major in Japanese and Linguistics, as ambassador, Santana serves as a cultural liaison elaborating on the history and significance of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. in 1912. Other responsibilities include organizing festival events such as Family Days, the Blossom Kite Festival, the South Waterfront Fireworks Festival and the Youth Education Program.
“The Youth Education Program involves us going into various public and charter schools in the D.C. area in order to teach a special class about the gift of the trees, Japanese culture and the importance of Japanese-American relations,” Santana said.
Apart from the celebratory festival events, Santana emphasized the importance the festival places on the promotion of international relations and cross-cultural awareness. Through its sponsors and organizers, the festival aims to bring together talent from both Japan and America, including chefs, artists and performers.
“From the big-scale efforts put together in deciding on the events all the way to volunteers from various backgrounds who donate their time to the various activities, the festival really hinges upon the ability of people to lean into discomfort and learn something new about others and themselves,” she said.
Miyu Fujita (NHS ‘15), who participated in the Festival last year as a Goodwill Ambassador, praised the Festival for its cultural union of American and Japanese culture.
“Everyone comes to D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. It’s become a local yet international event where different nationalities come together to celebrate the new spring and friendship. Overall, the experience was very rewarding as I got to learn about D.C. and the culture of cherry blossoms,.” Fujita said.
Fujita also lauded the festival for its response to the 9.0 earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan in March 2011, as it carried out events to donate to the Japanese cause.
“What’s great about Cherry Blossom Festival is not just about celebrating the Japanese and American friendship, but it’s more about connecting all different kinds of people around the world and bringing them together.” Fujita said.
Danielle Davis, Communications Manager for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, assured readers that the unusually cold weather this past winter would not affect festival scheduling and confirmed that the peak bloom would occur around April 8-12.
“Although we did have to cancel the Blossom Kite Festival this past week due to inclement weather, the blossoms are predicted to be fully bloomed by next week which would be in line with the National Cherry Blossom Parade that will be held … April 12,” Davis said.