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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Gabrielle McAfee of Columbia City checks out different kimono patterns Sunday at the 11th annual Cherry Blossom Festival at the downtown Allen County Public Library.

Monday, May 08, 2017 1:00 am

Library hosts Cherry Blossom Festival

Karaoke, cosplayers meet bonsai, origami

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Cherry Blossom Festival organizers learned last year that the Great Hall in the Allen County Public Library wasn't great enough.

Attendance exceeded 10,000 people, which crowded the corridor and prompted organizers this year to move some booths to the plaza outside, festival co-chair Michele Yamanaka said Sunday while manning a tent.

“Now we're fighting the wind,” she said.

But the chill and whipping winds didn't keep visitors away from the 11th annual festival. Attendees not only packed the Great Hall and plaza, but also other places throughout the downtown library, including the theater, meeting rooms and children's services.

Activities included karaoke, a cosplay competition, bonsai and origami demonstrations, musical and dance performances, and haiku readings by local schoolchildren.

Timothy Haist, a third-grader at Canterbury, was among the elementary school students recognized for his poem. Afterward, he and his family searched for his haiku displayed in the gallery, where he posed for pictures.

Yamanaka credited the popularity of the festival to a number of factors, including Fort Wayne's sister-city relationship with Takaoka, Japan, as well as the annual event's family-friendly atmosphere.

Seeing the festival's growth is a favorite element for longtime attendee Kaitlyn Rauch of Fort Wayne. She attended Sunday with her sister Stephanie Havener, who cosplayed as Black Cat from the Spider-Man comics.

They were talking with a fellow cosplayer Lisa Anderson-Kleckner, who traveled from Logansport and wore a Pokémon-inspired costume.

“You see a lot of the same faces,” said Rauch, a cosplay photographer.

Sean Koski and his wife were helping their 3-year-old daughter make a cherry blossom tree in the children's area, which also featured a chopstick challenge and opportunities to make paper samurai helmets, among other crafts.

The family traveled about three hours from their home in Michigan, he said, complimenting the free event. It was, he said, “a beautiful day for it.”