Last-minute sponsors step up for Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossoms along West 22nd Avenue near Arbutus. Rachel-Ann Nadeau, Vancouver . Rachel-Ann Nadeau, Vancouver

Vancouver’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival will proceed as planned, after donors stepped forward at the 11th hour to fill a major funding gap.

Festival executive director Michael Dove told CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show that organizers had been looking at an $80,000 shortfall after a key donor ran into financial difficulties.

Last month, the festival announced that lead sponsor Coromandel Properties could not longer contribute because it had recently filed for creditor protection.

“We were having to make some big decisions about if we could even go forward this year. Luckily the word got out and a lot of people reached out to us,” Dove told CKNW.

The new sponsors include a major donation from Edge Construction, along with support from the Yaletown Business Improvement Association and the Gain Group of auto dealers.

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Click to play video: 'Cherry blossom trees bring out photo-seekers in Vancouver'
Cherry blossom trees bring out photo-seekers in Vancouver

“There are a lot of people who are in tough financial positions, so that was certainly a fear, that it just wouldn’t be a good time for people,” Dove said.

“There’s been a lot of sleepless nights over the past month.”

The new sponsorships mean the festival will be able to launch as planned with its full program of events, nearly all of which are free.

Festivities include small-scale events like neighbourhood walks with tree specialists, the annual Bike the Blossoms ride and haiku workshops.

Larger events like the launch day day picnic and concert at David Lam Park, and the Sakura Days Japan Fair at VanDusen Gardens — the festival’s only ticketed event — will also be back.

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“Our numbers last year were record numbers at all of our events and what we kept hearing was, ‘Hey, we were locked in for a couple of years and we weren’t able to connect with our neighbours in the same way, we weren’t able to get out and share experiences with people,’ and I think a lot of us found a new appreciation for nature during lockdown because that was the one thing we did have access to,” Dove said.

The short-lived cherry blossom blooms themselves, he added, provide a metaphor everyone can engage with.

“There are beautiful things in our life and sometimes they’re temporary and sometimes they’re fleeting so lets take a moment to appreciate them,” he said.

“I think that’s a great lesson for a lot of things in our life.”

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