Sun brings out the best in cherry blossom fest

Published: Monday, April 20, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — The blossoms were in full bloom, and the party was in full swing Sunday at the 36th annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Wooster Square.

The combination of warm weather and bright sunshine Saturday helped nudge along the flowers, which only a few days ago had yet to emerge. Ro Conforti, a board member of the Historic Wooster Square Association and festival chairwoman, said she was optimistic about the timing.

“I always expect the blossoms to be out — I am the ultimate optimist — so yesterday, when they popped, I said, ‘Great!’ I would say the good warm feelings of the neighbors helped them come out.”

The festival, which the Historic Wooster Square Association ran for the second year, attracted hundreds of people enjoying food, music and sunny spring weather.

Conforti said that the event offered more attractions this year, with three bands instead of the usual one, and new food vendors. The Neighborhood Music Schools Premier Jazz Ensemble, St. Luke’s Steel Drum Band and swing band Tuxedo Junction performed.

“I am so delighted this year — it’s more people, more activities, more music and more sunshine than we’ve had any year in the past,” Conforti said.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said that she has been attending the festival every year since she was a child. Her father was one of the original organizers, and her mother “would kill me” if she missed the event now, she said.

“It’s just deep in my heart and soul and what it represents, in this community there is a wealth, a love, a sense of tradition, a sense of faith … that pervades Wooster Square,” DeLauro said. “It’s all part of what our heritage is about.”

She added: “Much like the roots of this tree, the roots of this community grow very deep.”

Wooster Square boasts 72 Yoshino cherry trees, which were planted in 1974. The community has celebrated the annual blooming with a festival every year since.

Saburo Yoshida, a first-year student at the Yale School of Management who lives in North Haven, said that it was his first year attending the festival. Yoshida brought his 9-year-old daughter, Kana, and invited friends to share platters of sushi.

The Wooster Square event was similar to, if smaller than, cherry blossom festivals he has attended in Japan, Yoshida said. Celebrating the arrival of the blossoms is a traditional spring activity in Japan.

Yoshida said he was pleasantly surprised to see that the trees had flowered.

“We came here three days ago and there were no flowers,” he said. “In Japan, this time of year, most of the flowers are blooming, so it’s pretty late here.”

He added that the festival seemed “really traditional,” with one key change: “We have alcohol (at the festivals) in Japan — I think that’s the only difference.”

Conforti, the organizer, said that the Wooster Square Association begins planning for next year’s festival as soon as the current one is over. The event will likely continue to grow, she said.

“We plan all year,” she said. “This is a celebration of spring and music and neighbors.”

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