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Plastered in pink petals, Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival opens this weekend

When you organize a cherry blossom festival, timing is everything.

This year, organizers of the Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival believe they will get the timing right.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Cherry Blossoms are ready for their close-up]

When the festival opens this weekend, most cherry blossom trees in the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park likely will be in peak bloom, hugging the trees in blankets of pink petals, according to organizers.

The festival, now in its fourth year, runs from Saturday through May 6. It all happens behind the Buffalo History Museum, near the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Nottingham Terrace.

Festival organizers hit their delicate timing target during two of the first three years, according to event co-chairwoman Paula Hinz. Last year, the weather preceding the festival was a little chilly. It even snowed a couple weeks before the event.

"I joked we were out there with blow dryers trying to keep the trees warm," Hinz said.

Aaron Bobeck, of Grand Island, and Sarah Schreiber, of Tonawanda, take photographs of the cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden on Wednesday. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

In Japan, where cherry blossom festivals originated, they are better at making sure their festivals coincide with when the trees are in peak bloom. The Japanese do not schedule events a year in advance as Americans do, Hinz said. The organizers there schedule their celebrations based on the weather that season, she said.

Thankfully, there are eight varieties of cherry blossom trees in Buffalo's Japanese Garden, a project undertaken between Buffalo and its sister city, Kanazawa, Japan.

That means the trees bloom at different times, Hinz said.

Cherry blossoms bloom in the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park behind the Buffalo History Museum. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Events at this year's festival include:

  • The festival opens at noon Saturday with a performance by a Japanese folk dance group, as well as a "Madama Butterfly" opera preview.
  • "Family Day" from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Activities scheduled inside the museum and outside in the garden, including puppet shows at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., as well as a "pink parade" at 1:30 p.m.
  • Cherry Blossom Fusion Party, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday.
  • Self-guided audio tours Monday through May 5.
  • "Music Day" from noon to 3 p.m. May 6. Performances by the Middlemen, as well as jazz bands from Hamburg High School and a high school in Kanazawa.

In addition to the more traditional Cherry Blossom Festival events, there's also this: Lockhouse Distillery has teamed up with Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to unveil its eighth product — Sakura Gin, which is a limited-release gin made exclusively from cherry blossoms collected this spring from  throughout the Olmsted Park System (mainly from the Japanese Garden). 

At noon Saturday, Lockhouse will be offering samples of the gin at the festival and a Lockhouse donated cherry tree will be planted in the Japanese Gardens. Later at 6 p.m., Lockhouse Distillery & Bar, at 41 Columbia St., will host a Sakura Gin launch party that will feature a special cocktail menu using the product. Bottles will be available for purchase, and will come with a Sakura Gin folding paper hand fan.

Lockhouse Distillery’s Sakura Gin celebrates Buffalo’s cherry blossoms

For more information about the festival, visit

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