Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival at Yuko-En

Last weekend (the 17th-18th), Georgetown Kentucky played host to a couple of wonderful cultural events. Both events were related to each other, held in adjoining venues, but separate in scope. The first event that usually draws more attention from those with families is the annual kite festival. Out past the Cardome Center on U.S. 25, a huge field is opened to participants flying kites. The colorful display is remarkable and a wonderful opener to the spring season! The events for that portion are free, but parking is $5. Games and vendors are included in this event, but a frequently overlooked portion of this celebration is the Cherry Blossom Festival held in the adjoining Yuko-En Japanese Garden.

The Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is Kentucky's only official sister relationship garden with Japan. If you are not familiar with Georgetown, the city has a special sister relationship with the Japanese City of Tahara-Cho because of Georgetown's huge Toyota factory that sits on the northern boundaries of the city. The word "huge" is no exaggeration as the right viewing angle will demonstrate its massive size.......bigger than Georgetown itself!

Opened in 2000, the garden was constructed to be a Japanese garden in design, but Bluegrass region in specimen use. By combining the two elements, the experience is unlike any other. There are several reasons why I love visiting this garden. The architecture alone is quite stunning. I have admired this gorgeous entryway since it was built, and I didn't even live in the county at the time. The visual impact is not only arresting, but when entering through the large gates, they seduce you into this long sunken pathway lined with bamboo. The impact creates an immediate sense of entering a special and slightly mysterious other world.

The architectural elements continue once inside the garden. This large multi-purpose building was recently completed within the past few years, but has played host to several events, such as weddings and educational sessions.

The approach to the multi-purpose building is embellished with this beautiful red bridge that serves as a prime place for a photo-op!

But on the other side of the multi-purpose building, the walled zen garden is truly a peaceful and shady place to sit and contemplate the beauty that surrounds each visitor as they pass through. You may not walk in this portion of the garden, but you may sit on a deck that overlooks this stunningly detailed enclosure which is just as enjoyable. One feature of the festival itself is the zen garden combing ceremony. I missed that event this year, but that only gives me a reason to try again next year!

Across from the multi-purpose building is the lake that holds, what appears to be, thousands of beautiful goldfish and koi. This is usually the favorite spot for the children as there is a place dedicated to feeding the fish. Honestly, some of the old scaled veterans in there look like they are just miniature sharks, but they assure me they are really just koi. I'm not so convinced!

The view looking toward the waterfall feature, as seen below. As you can see, the blooms are exquisite during this festival. The dogwoods, redbud, and other blossoms provide quite the show!
Wandering down below the hill to the small waterfall, keep your eyes open for pieces of artwork that line the paths. This is a fairly new feature to Yuko-En, but a very welcome one. It adds such a visual interest to the surroundings and exposes the local visitors to an unfamiliar art element. In my humble opinion, introducing art into the garden not only enhances the experience, but better connects us to the culture of Tahara-Cho. Nothing conveys a message more clearly than artwork. Combined with the elements of nature, one can quickly appreciate the spiritual influences that are so important to the Japanese culture.

Overall, the events of the Cherry Blossom Festival are numerous all weekend long and just as colorful as the kites flying in the distance. The educational value is priceless for both the kids and the adults. My only criticism is one that could be very easily remedied......I didn't see any cherry trees! There looked to be some on the hill near the Cardome Center, but the blossoms had already reached their peak the week before and were already brown. I couldn't guarantee that they were cherry trees since I didn't get close enough to tell for sure. Needless to say, they should add cherry trees to the this beautiful garden that has ample room for such additions, or change the name of the festival.

If you missed the festival, don't worry, this garden is beautiful year round! If you are in the Georgetown area, be sure to put this on the will be very glad you did!

Sayonara everyone!

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