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Cherry Blossom Festival to honor Badua, Waimea Lions Club (Feb. 7)

MEDIA RELEASE

The 21st Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival on Saturday, Feb. 7 honors long-time festival participants Dorothy (Ocompo) Badua of Ka Hui Kapa o Waimea and the Waimea Lions Club, which marks its 60th anniversary in 2015.

They will each be recognized at the festival’s opening ceremony. Time is 9 a.m. on the entertainment stage at the rear of Parker Ranch Center.

Dorothy Badua

A strong advocate for the art of Hawaiian quilting, Badua, 70, is credited with bringing Ka Hui Kapa O Waimea’s large quilt shows and hands-on fun to the festival’s lineup of numerous activities. The Kukuihaele resident has also been instrumental in creating the festival’s vertical pink fabric banners to easily identify event venues.

“The Cherry Blossom Festival offers something about all our local cultures and I feel it’s important to share Hawaiian quilting with the many attendees,” Badua says. “We have a free, how-to station so people can experience the Hawaiian style of applique quilting and make a pillow pattern to take home.”

Raised in Kukuihaele, Waimea and Kohala, Badua got involved with quilting as a fourth grader, helping her mother, the late Dorothy Merseberg. “Mother cut and basted quilts and I helped her thread the needles,” Badua recalls. “She worked for a man named Doc Silver who would bring a stack of fabric that Mother would cut and baste.”

The quilts were appliqued in the traditional Hawaiian style. “Mother’s patterns were all made up and after she was done with each quilt, she would throw the pattern away every time,” notes Badua. “In those days (1950s), people didn’t share quilt patterns.”

In eighth grade, Badua’s mother died and she went to live with a foster family in Kohala, where she graduated from high school. She pretty much forgot about quilting, married Ben Badua, moved to leeward Oahu and had two sons.

After the Baduas moved back to the Big Island in 1983, Badua visited with Sharon Balai, who was then the owner of Upcountry Quilters, and was prompted to get into quilting. “Sharon was my inspiration,” remembers Budua. “I joined Ka Hui Kapa Apana and just started quilting; Sharon kind of guided me.”

Badua’s first quilt was “Ka Makani O Waimea,” from a pattern in the club’s collection. Over the years, she has completed “about 20” Hawaiian quilts, plus numerous patchwork quilts to benefit foster children through Queen Liliuokalani’s Children Center (QLCC). Badua retired from QLCC in December after 19 years of service.

According to Badua, Ka Hui Kapa O Waimea has participated in the festival for over a decade and quilt shows alternate each year between an all-Hawaiian theme and a Hawaiian-American theme.

The club offers quilt pattern tracing for a nominal charge and also sells sewing and quilting notions. In 2015, the club will be located at Mana Christian Ohana Center (former Kahilu Town Hall) and the show will display only Hawaiian quilts.

“I am grateful that Hawaiian quilting has always been so well received at the festival,” adds Badua. “It’s not only for Hawaiians, but everybody who is interested.”

Waimea Lions Club

At the heart of the annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is the historic grove of trees at the county’s Church Row Park. The Waimea Lions Club cares for the 75-some cherry trees, annually spraying them for diseases, trimming suckers and dead branches, and applying fertilizer.

In fact, the service organization planted the park’s first trees in 1972 as a community beautification project. The trees were seedlings from three Formosan cherry trees that were planted in Waimea in 1953 as a memorial to Fred Makino, founder of Hawaii’s Japanese language newspaper, “Hawaii Hochi.”

Lions Club member Frank Fuchino, who has been involved with the “cherry tree project” since day one, says the idea to beautify Church Row Park sprang from talk of a future bypass road coming in.

“We heard a road would be built to bypass Waimea, so we thought we’d plant the trees to attract people to town,” he explains. “(The late) Masayoshi Onodera coordinated the planting of the trees.”

Through the years, Lions Club members cared for the trees and replaced those that died. The late Hisao Kimura, who was a professional agronomist, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the partnership between the County of Hawaii and the club in caring for the trees and enlarging the festival.

In 1975, the Lions planted numerous trees to commemorate the visit of Emperor Hirohito and his wife to Hawaii and honor the first Japanese immigrants who settled in Waimea 100 years before.

“Each year we’d plant one or two trees to honor certain individuals or welcome visiting dignitaries,” adds Fuchino.

“The cherry trees have been our kuleana (responsibility) for 30 years or more,” says Jim McDonough, Waimea Lions Club public relations chairman and Cherry Blossom Festival committee member. “We trim the trees one or twice a year and spray them to prevent rust and eradicate moss.”

Supplies are provided by the county and equipment is borrowed. The men provide their own clippers and the use of a chain saw that’s affixed to a pole.

According to McDonough, the entire club is involved in the project and six current members make up the park’s original planting crew: Fuchino, Dickie Hanano, Braley Pastrorino, Fred Nonaka, Mich Nitta and Dick Solmssen.

Dickie Hanano has been a leader in the caring of the trees and serves as an “in-house” docent in the Lions’ booth during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

“We have a photo display that chronicles the original and subsequent plantings,” Hanano said.

Located at Church Row Park, the booth also displays photos of the park in full bloom.

Besides the historical display, the club serves as the festival’s official Lost and Found station. It is also a hub for Lions Club members who are visiting from the mainland.

“Every year at the festival, we have three or four Mainland tourists, who are Lions members, that come in to say hello,” McDonough said. “Lions are great for exchanging club pins so if they come by, we give them our Waimea club pin.”

According to McDonough, the upkeep of the cherry trees is the Waimea Lions Club’s largest service project, followed by vision screening of elementary school children. The club has become the town’s “unofficial” cherry tree expert, taking its beautification project to other locations, including North Hawaii Community Hospital.

“We have several club members with a horticulture background,” McDonough said.

Fuchino thinks the original vision for beautifying Church Row Park has come to fruition.

“We have people coming from Japan and around the world to Waimea to see the blooming trees and attend the Cherry Blossom Festival. It has brought many organizations together. Without the trees, there would be no festival!”

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival annually celebrates the Japanese tradition of viewing the season’s first blooms, called “hanami,” which literally translates to hana, flower and mi, look.

Held the first Saturday of February, the festival includes a variety of activities 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at multiple venues throughout Waimea. Look for pink banners identifying site locations sprawling from Parker Ranch Center to the Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market on Highway 19.

Spend the day to experience an all-day lineup of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, origami, traditional tea ceremony, fun mochi pounding, plus a host of colorful craft fairs, a large quilt show and food booths. Enjoy free shuttle transportation among most venues. New this year is live performing arts at Church Row Park.

For further information, call 961-8706.

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