This year would have seen Springfield’s 25th Japanese Fall Festival.
But as with most festivals, the COVID-19 pandemic effectively cleared the 2020 calendar and left Lisa Bakerink and others involved with planning the Springfield Sister Cities Association’s annual festival looking for ways to reimagine it.
“We were going to have sumo wrestlers,” Bakerink laments with a faint laugh.
There may not be sumo wrestlers this year, but there will be cosplay and other entertainment at this weekend’s all-outdoor Japanese Fall Mini Series.
On Friday and Saturday (Aug. 11-12), guests can look forward to evening candlelight strolls through the Japanese Mizumoto Stroll Garden, garden-related workshops and cosplayers performing, along with a souvenir tent also offering Japanese food and drink.
Bakerink says surprises are in store for those who haven’t visited the Japanese garden in a while. Volunteers began making improvements to the park beginning in 2017. “The Japanese gardeners were here and helped us do quite a bit to our meditation garden,” she says. Improvements included installing bamboo panels and a fence and trimming trees.
“Since then, we’ve added to the improvements with dense plantings. One of the biggest things we’ve been able to do is completely redo all of the pathways,” Bakerink says. Tree roots had lifted sections, making the paths uneven and almost dangerous in spots. “Stamped concrete is a lot safer,” she says with a laugh.
The evening strolls through the 7.5-acre park also will feature music from local musicians. Lancaster Station, which plans to visit Springfield’s Sister City Isesaki in 2021, will perform Friday, while Uke 66, which visited Isesaki in 2017, will play Saturday.
The Friday Bonsai Workshop will be led by Chris Cox, The Bonsai Guy. On Saturday, folks can learn about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Both workshops — $75 per person or $90 per couple — begin at 5:30 p.m. and include admission, a wishing lantern, Japanese food and drink and all of the materials needed to participate. You must register in advance at PeaceThroughPeople.org.
The cosplayers will show up at 3 p.m. Saturday. Bakerink encourages family groups to tote a picnic to the park to enjoy while the fun plays out. Those who arrive in costume will be admitted for $2.
Bakerink says even the scaled-back version of the celebration remains important. “Having an international focus and bringing people together through Peace Through People really adds value to life,” she says. “… It helps build friendships and helps people understand cultures and customs in different cities.”
And, she has hope for 2021.
“We had plans for a big blow-out kind of thing. But the good news is we can still have something and — since it’s technically not the 25th festival — we can do it next year,” Bakerink says.
Want to go?
What: Springfield Sister Cities Association’s Japanese Fall Mini Series
When: 5:30-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, and 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12
Where: Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, part of Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, 2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Cost: $5 adult; $2 ages 12 and younger; workshops (registration required) are $75 per person or $90 per couple.
Info: 417-864-1191 or PeaceThroughPeople.org
Note: All guests are required to wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot physical distance from others throughout the event. Staff and volunteers will ensure thorough sanitization of high-traffic areas.
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