Cherry Blossom Festival celebrated in Irmo

The Irmo Town Park came alive with arts and fellowship on March 23, celebrated as Cherry Blossom Day following proclamations by Governor Henry McMaster and Irmo Mayor Bill Danielson, as well as recognition from the SC House of Representatives initiated by Rep. Nathan Ballentine. The 7th annual Irmo Cherry Blossom Festival paid tribute to these beautiful blossoms symbolizing the essence of life’s beauty, fragility, and preciousness.

The festivities kicked off in the morning at the Irmo Town Administration Building parking lot with an exciting Japanese Import Car Drive-In. Kyle Tolli stole the show, earning first place for his impressive 2002 Honda Civic Type R, scoring an impressive 92 points out of a possible 100. The winners were recognized with prizes generously provided by Camon Japanese Restaurant, Christian Brothers Automotive, Japan Direct Motors, and The Irmo Cherry Blossom Festival.

Jeff and Cris Cameron

A highlight of the event was the specially designed trophy, crafted by Soda City 3D Art and Cosplay. The trophy featured a beautiful blooming cherry blossom branch atop a drift car, perfectly capturing the essence of the festival. Dusty Brody secured second place with his 1994 Honda ACTX, while Ricky Mathena claimed third place with his 1995 Toyota Celsior. Notably, Brody was last year’s People’s Choice winner.

Car show organizer J. Brian Pearson expressed gratitude to all participants, remarking, “We really appreciate everybody coming out. This was a fun event!” The drive-in concluded with a lively car processional, escorted by the Irmo Police Department, entertaining festival attendees in the park and along the sidewalk, adding to the festive atmosphere of the day.

Later, a cosplay costume contest, hosted by Soda City 3D Art and Cosplay, saw enthusiastic participants dressed as characters from Japanese cartoons, movies, and video games. Obitoast claimed first place with their cosplay inspired by The Ronin from the Star Wars Visions series.

Vendors at the festival included traditional Japanese-style artists like Benji Hicks, who showcased woodblock prints, and artisans crafting kimekomi balls and amigurumi crochet animals. Attendees also enjoyed Japanese-themed artworks, goods, and foods celebrating aspects of Japanese culture.

Organizer Kimberly Oakley

The festival also featured informative booths on AAPI Awareness, the upcoming SharpVue Irmo International Festival, and Japanese tea culture. Members of the Japan America Association of SC displayed artwork and everyday items from Japan, educating visitors about Japanese traditions and offering opportunities to learn Japanese writing.

A highlight of the festival was the Pikachu figure from the Pokémon game, attracting visitors of all ages. Attendees also marveled at attendees wearing traditional Japanese attire like kimono, hakama, and yukata, adding to the cultural ambiance.

Underneath the canopy of pale pink Japanese cherry blossoms, visitors experienced the enchanting “sakura snow” phenomenon, as delicate petals danced in the wind, creating a magical atmosphere.

Organizer Kimberly Oakley expressed her joy at the festival’s success, anticipating even greater festivities next year with continued support from the Town of Irmo.