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The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

Celebrate Spring in a Sea of Pink: Top 5 Must-Dos at the 2024 Akron Sakura Festival

Graphic+created+with+images+from+Downtown+Akron+Partnership.+
Graphic created with images from Downtown Akron Partnership.

According to our recent Instagram Story poll, many of our readers weren’t aware of the cherry blossom trees along the Towpath, and some weren’t aware of the Towpath itself. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about and enjoy both while exploring Japanese culture and traditions is happening this Saturday, April 6 from 3 to 9 p.m. along the downtown Akron leg of the Towpath.  

The Downtown Akron Sakura Festival, presented by the Downtown Akron Partnership, is a free community festival centered on the more than 450 cherry blossoms lining the Ohio Erie Canal Towpath. The Towpath is also home to Downtown Akron Partnership’s annual Sakura Festival. 

Attendees can park and enter the event at the Spaghetti Warehouse Trailhead, Locks 1-3, or at the Mustill Store trailhead. Events and activities will line the Towpath including a main stage at the Spaghetti Warehouse Trailhead and another stage at Mustill stores.  

As the festival changes and expands each year, people who have come from near and far have had different experiences. After speaking with many Akron natives about the festival, here are the 5 ‘must-dos’ at the Akron Sakura Festival.

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Attendees watching traditional Japanese performances at the 2023 Sakura Festival. Photo Curtesy of Anna Chen

Must-Do #1: Participate in the Photo Contest  

DAP runs its Sakura Festival photo contest for the duration of the festival. The photo contest has already begun and runs through Monday, April 15 at 11:59 p.m. According to the DAP social media accounts:  

All you need to do is tag us in your best photo(s) of the cherry blossoms for a chance to win a $100, $50, or $25 Downtown Akron Dollars E-Gift Card. Bonus points if your submission incorporates a recognizable part of the Akron landscape!”  

Megan Delong, Assistant Director of Community Engaged Learning at the University of Akron had the opportunity to capture a photo and submit it to the 2023 photo contest. When speaking to her she expresses that the opportunity to be involved with DAP’s photo contest was out of the blue and so fun to find a perfect angle to capture the beauty of the cherry trees.

“It was fun because I was just walking along the Towpath with my partner and found out about the contest,” Delong said. “Even though I didn’t win it was still exciting to try to capture the sheer beauty of the canal.” 

Wooley and her daughter along the Towpath heading to the Sakura Festival. Photo Curtesy of Carla Wooley

Prizes will be awarded to the top three photographers chosen by the contests’ panel of guest judges. Check out the photo contest on the Downtown Akron Partnership Instagram page.

Must-Do #2: Take a ride on the Towpath:  

The Sakura Festival lines the downtown Akron stretch of the Towpath, it is the perfect time to stroll along the trail, or better yet, ride your bike. As the cherry blossoms are in bloom, riding a bike with your family to and from the festival can be a fulfilling form of exercise, and a great way to explore the Towpath.  

Carla Wooley and her daughter Jimi, residents of West Akron, took their bikes to the Towpath for the Sakura Festival last year. Wooley is a fan of the cherry blossoms.  

“The cherry blossoms are breathtaking when in bloom,” she said. “It’s truly one of Akron’s hidden gems that I consider a must-see.”  

The Wooley family entered the Towpath at the Memorial Parkway trailhead, rode to the festival, and saw the cherry blossoms between North Street and downtown. 

They made a fully-day excursion of it. 

“I love riding my bike along the Towpath while they’re in bloom,” Wooley said. “It’s like everything looks a lot more magical.” 

UA student Madison Latona looks closely at the blossoms. Photo via www.ZipsGuide.com

Must-Do #3 Explore the Japanese Culture: 

While the Sakura Festival may not completely mirror the Japanese Sakura custom of small family picnics under the blossoms, there will be many opportunities for attendees to learn more and participate in Japanese culture. 

Performances of traditional Japanese music as well as modern J-pop performers will be featured throughout the event. There will be two stages, with the main stage at the Trailhead at Spaghetti Warehouse and the smaller stage at Mustill stores, though in previous years performers also sat along the trail. 

Attendees will be able to take part in a story walk and read haiku poetry by local STEM students along the path. Local vendors will offer bonsai and cultural flower arrangements. Craft stations will also be held, which will include the curation of origami, kite making, and different Japanese games.  

Japanese culture can also be experienced by visiting vendors such as Ohio Kimono, who will be set up at the festival.  

At last year’s festival, the small business was tabled along the Towpath. The Kimono Lady, Ohio Kimono’s public persona, expressed that the beauty along the Towpath gave her a feeling of admiration and taking in the environment and the beauty was something she will never forget.  

“To see the Towpath trail be embraced and celebrated while the Sakura was in bloom was such a special honor to be included in. How could anyone pass up such an honor? I love seeing communities embrace and welcome culture and art into their space,” said the Kimono Lady.  

One last spot of culture to take in is Japanese food. Make sure to visit Dr. Hibachi Food Truck and Malila Kitchen’s offering for authentic Japanese cuisine. If you’re looking for sushi and boba, check out food from Boiling House Akron. Of course, the festival has more than a dozen food vendors offering many kinds of food, so if you’re not a sushi fan, don’t worry, Eddie’s Cheesesteaks can supply you with some good old American eats. Don’t miss the sake flights in the Lock 3 Concession area.

Attendees of the 2023 Sakura Festival participating in a painting of the cherry blossoms. Photo Curtesy of Anna Chen

An updated list of food vendors includes: 

  • Dr. Hibachi (Japanese fried rice, Hibachi Chicken steak & shrimp) 
  • Galaxy Grill (Fresh squeezed lemonade, skinny fair fries, fresh dipped corn dogs, funnel cakes) 
  • Crepes All Day (crème brûlée boba crepe, sakura strawberry towel crepe, sakura bubble tea, sakura lemonade) 
  • Eddies Famous Cheesesteaks and Grille (Cheesesteaks & fresh cut fries) 
  • Thai It Up Food Truck (Authentic Thai cuisine with Chinese options) 
  • Bereka Coffee (Specializing in organic, dairy free & Ethiopian coffee) 
  • El Patrón Tequilería & Cuisine (Street tacos, authentic Mexican cuisine) 
  • Henry’s Creamery (Artisanal ice cream & sorbet) 
  • Birdies Food Truck (Steak, teriyaki chicken, jerk chicken skewers, specialty burgers, chicken sandwiches) 
  • Stray Dog Café (Pork sandwich with cherry BBQ sauce, hot dogs, soda, soup) 
  • Bubbles and Puffles (Bubble tea, ice cream & other treats) 
  • Travelin’ Toms Coffee Truck (Coffee & tea) 

Must- Do #4 Shop Local: 

The Kimono Lady isn’t the only vendor you’ll meet at Sakura. In fact, the festival offers retail therapy among the blossoms. Check out this (long) list of shopping opportunities at the festival: 

  • Northside Marketplace 
  • Lucky Bonsai (Live bonsai trees) 
  • Ohio Kimono(Authentic kimonos & accessories; tabi socks & handmade, Ohio-made kanzashi,https://www.ohiokimono.com) 
  • Wabi Sabi by Mai (Japanese calligraphy arts including custom drawings on-site) 
  • Julia Belle’s Seasonings (domestic/international seasoning blends, rubs, cornbread/rice mixes) 

    Professor Julie Cajigas wearing LiRo Apparel’s new Akron, Ohio Alpaca sweater. These will debut on sale at the Sakura Festival. Photo via www.ZipsGuide.com.
  • Sunshine Expressions Face Painting (Face painting available for purchase) 
  • LiRo Apparel (Hats, scarves, shawls, ponchos, gloves, socks, & sweaters)
  • Arts by Malorie (Hand printed art and textiles) 
  • P31 Art & Design (Hand-bound books, spiral journals, artwork, wearable art, coasters, zines, cards) 
  • That One N3rd_ (stickers, prints of digital art, pipe cleaner sculptures, polymer clay sculptures & small figurines) 
  • Maneki Neko (Jewelry from special mizuhiki paper, dolls, different origami items) 
  • Zoey Maness (Original watercolor & oil paintings, & stickers) 
  • Daisuki Imports (Stationery, Japanese character plushies, Kawaii accessories, Japanese snacks, and cosmetics) 
  • BlackStar (Prints of original art, keychains & stickers inspired by cherry blossoms) 
  • Team Dragon (Manga) 
  • KitsuneGutz (Creating anime-inspired goods with a Kawaii twist) 
  • Jazzie Sculpts (Sculptural items and jewelry inspired by anime culture) 
  • IB Graphics+ (Caricatures available for purchase, shirts, mugs, gift baskets) 
  • Simply Me Jewelry (Kids jewelry, pins, earrings, necklaces, bracelets) 
  • Crafty Corner by Laura (Plushies from bees to Poké balls, and earrings from sunflowers to watermelon slices) 
  • Tansy Recycling (Recycled plant pots, coasters, jewelry, buttons, naturally dyed, upcycled garments) 
  • J’s Hobbies (Handmade novelty plushies and earrings, vintage Japanese Obis, etc.) 

Must-Do #5 Make a Day of It:

Cherry Blossoms along the Canal last Spring. Photo Curtesy of Megan Delong

Many Akron residents say they have been downtown but have never explored beyond a restaurant or Lock 3 to really take in all that Akron has to offer.  

Anna Chen, an intern at Asian Services in Action spoke about the aspects of Downtown and exploring beyond your views. “I’ve been in Akron for a great part of my life, and I didn’t even know about the cherry blossoms until recently, so I think this festival is a great way to get to know Downtown better, get to appreciate what we have in our city of Akron,” she said. 

Make a whole day and night out of your visit to Downtown by attending the Total Eclipse of the Market by Akron Bazaar from 10 a.m. until the festival at 3 p.m., or purchase tickets to Akron’s own Rubber Ducks game. The RubberDucks will be hosting Altoona Curve on April 6 with the first pitch starting at 6:05 p.m., ending with post-game fireworks. 

For more information about how to round out your Sakura Festival day, check out the www.ZipsGuide.com Guide to Eclipse Weekend in Akron, which has both a family-friendly and grown-ups only itinerary for Saturday, April 6. 

For more information on the Sakura festival and the most up-to-date event information, visit the DAP website at https://www.downtownakron.com/ and follow them on social at the Downtown Akron Partnership Instagram page or the Downtown Akron Partnership Facebook Page. 

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Sarah Burneson
Sarah Burneson, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! My name is Sarah Burneson and I am a sophomore majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration, along with a Professional Social Media Certificate and an Addiction Services Certificate. Outside of UA, I am involved in the Akron Women's Rugby Club, and I spend a lot of time with my friends and family.
Fun Fact: I have a twin sister!
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