It’s spring, and the flowers are in bloom, including the cherry blossoms. As such, San Francisco held its Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) these past two weekends, drawing in crowds from all around to enjoy the festivities.
Though the event ran for two weekends, the grand finale was on April 20th, coincidentally coinciding with Easter and, well, 4/20. That didn’t do much to stop the crowds from showing up en-masse, although there were somewhat fewer cosplayers than usual, due to the additional clashing with BABScon, WonderCon, Anime Conji, and Sakura-Con. (Suffice to say, there was a lot going on that weekend.)
The festival featured a large parade, marching from the Civic Center to San Francisco’s Japan Town. In the parade were floats sponsored by local businesses or featuring groups or people of importance, as well as marching bands, boy scouts, groups showcasing Japanese art and culture, cosplayers, and for some wonderful reason, lots of dogs.
The cosplay portion of the parade was a staple to many anime fans in the Northern California area for fifteen years, but this year was a close call. Initially, the cosplay contest and parade was not going to be included, for reasons relating to scheduling, management, and other details left undisclosed. There was no announcement about it either, so most of the CBF regulars were expecting it to return as it usually did, but word slowly got out, and as it did, people began to speak up, requesting its return.
Eventually, the cosplay parade was saved, thanks to the hard work and dedication from certain cosplayers, photographers, and fans who took the initiative to bring it back. Thanks to sponsorships from Crunchyroll, VizMedia, and several other groups and individuals, the contest was on once again and the cosplayers were allowed into the parade for another year.
In spite of the many events that weekend splitting the crowds, there were still plenty of cosplayers and photographers in attendance. The contest featured some skilled cosplayers from all around the area, in a friendly environment where everyone was there to have a good time, though there were prizes to be won. First place went to Ginryuu Cosplay, who was there as Leon Garcia de Asturias from “Trinity Blood,” with multiple cosplayers winning second, third, and honorable mentions.
The parade itself started around 1:00 and ended a little before 3:00, leading everyone through the streets of San Francisco. There were no clouds to be seen in the sky that day, so staying hydrated was a must, and those in heavy costumes found themselves suffering from the heat, but such is the price of cosplay, and we pay it willingly. That said, there were some close calls here and there, which served as a stark reminder of the importance of keeping cool and hydrated.
When the parade reached Japan Town, everyone was free to disperse for food at the many booths or restaurants in the area, and live stage shows held at the pagoda. The crowds were large, and sometimes hard to move through, but manageable even for those carrying large props.
Though the day was hot and tiring, it was one well spent and decidedly enjoyable. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, the sun was out, and the crowds were full of happy people. Whether they were there for a celebration of Japanese culture, for the cosplayers, or just because they wanted to get outside, the Cherry Blossom Festival proved enjoyable for most all.