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Micke Grove Park hosts 14th annual Cherry Blossom Festival

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2002 10:00 pm

The sky was barely visible through the Japanese garden’s canopy of bamboo, pine and cherry trees, but what you could see was cloudless blue.

And below the trees’ shade, with the sound of a waterfall splashing in the distance, visitors to the 15th annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Micke Grove Park enjoyed a relaxing, entertaining Sunday afternoon.

Between eating skewered teriyaki chicken, wandering through the serene Japanese Garden and watching karate and acupuncture demonstrations, there was still plenty of time to sit back and bask in the weekend’s warm weather.

“I really enjoy the tea ceremony. It is so peaceful and the park is beautiful,” said Anthony Wu, a Stockton doctor, standing outside the pavilion where the traditional tea preparation was performed.

Steven Takehana concentrates on making an origami Chinese star at the Cherry Blossom Festival at Micke Grove Park on Sunday. (Jennifer Matthews-Howell/News-Sentinel)

Sandra Costa-Adams, a marketing manager for San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation who helped organize the festival, said the tea ceremony “is a window into the Japanese culture — we’re lucky to have it here.” “It’s something that most people don’t get to experience,” she said.

Behind the Japanese pavilion, mallards swam through a pond and the reflections of blossoming cherry trees played on the water’s surface.

“It’s very peaceful here, and very colorful,” said Sue Gruidl, who wandered through the garden with her husband, Bill, and four grandchildren.

The relaxing spell that the garden cast on its visitors Sunday was quickly broken just outside of the gates.

Dancers were on stage in the festival’s main building, followed by a karate demonstration.

Students of Goju-Do karate warm up prior to a demostration at the Cherry Blossom Festival at Micke Grove Park on Sunday. (Jennifer Matthews-Howell/News-Sentinel)

“We have people from the age of 8 years old to 52 years old to demonstrate today,” said Eric Shingu, a karate instructor that works out of Stockton and Lodi. “We come to celebrate the park and the coming of spring.”

Off to the side of the stage, another attraction drew a large crowd: A menu of Japanese cuisine including teriyaki chicken on a stick, sweet and sour chicken wings and oriental chicken salad.

In the next room over, pottery fired in the Japanese Raku tradition was for sale and ornately groomed bonsai trees were on display. Some of the miniature trees are over 50 years old.

“We talk about (the trees) like they’re our kids,” said Dan Platt, of Stockton, who grows the trees as a hobby.

Pam Gallego, another Bonsai enthusiast, agreed.

“You baby them and talk to them,” she said.

The trees were not for sale.

Steven Takehana, 17, a senior at Tokay High School, was volunteering at the festival, teaching children how to make origami.

Sitting across the table from excited youngsters, Takehana would take them step by step through the folding required to construct the crowd favorite origami crane, but sometimes he’d have to take matters into his own hands.

“The toughest thing is that if you fold something the wrong way, you have to start all over again,” Takehana said, explaining why some of the children deferred to him to finish making their paper birds.

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