To reinvigorate a sense of normalcy following the blunder of the past year, the Rotary Club of Peekskill will be hosting its fourth annual Cherry Blossom Festival next month at the Riverfront Green.
The event, which will take place on Saturday, May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will mark Peekskill’s first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in local organizations either canceling major happenings or transitioning to a virtual platform. Earlier this year, the Rotary held its annual horse show virtually due to the ongoing spread of the virus.
However, after canceling the Cherry Blossom Festival last year, the Rotary felt offering this outlet to community members was essential to proving that there is still hope amidst the anguish the pandemic has caused.
“For everything that happened with COVID, people need to see that there’s hope and at the same with everybody stuck in their home, this is a celebration of springtime,” said Chappy Manzer, a Rotary member and chair of the festival. “This is important because it’s a celebration of springtime but also a celebration that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
As the 100 cherry trees the Rotary planted along the waterfront blossom, festival attendees can expect treasured activities like previous years, including a plant sale, food trucks, raffles and craft vendors. Children’s activities, such as face painting, flowerpot painting, seed planting, candle making and more, will also be available.
Manzer assured all children’s activities will receive steady oversight from volunteers and members who will ensure all objects will be disinfected and games will be contactless.
The event is free to attend and will be held rain or shine. Pets are allowed.
Manzer said the festival will have about a dozen local food trucks catering to the delights and cravings of those in attendance, including the Peekskill Coffee House, Gleason’s Peekskill, Wanna Empanada, Wrapper’s Delight, Put Some Meat on Your Bones and Knot of this World Pretzels.
Additionally, nearly 15 craft vendors will be on hand for festivalgoers to peruse, with the variety ranging from boutiques and craft spirits to baked goods, music lessons, Henna and knickknacks.
With the festival the Peekskill Rotary’s largest fundraising event of the year, all proceeds earned from the plant sale and raffle will benefit the community, Manzer said. In previous years, the event has raised upwards of $22,000, which is allocated to various scholarships, international projects and organizations the Rotary sponsors.
“I would love to make that much again this year,” Manzer said.
The Rotary is only selling 300 raffle tickets for $100 per ticket, with nine case prizes given away on the day of the event when the tickets are drawn. The grand prize winner will receive $5,000, with second place collecting $3,000.
The remaining seven winners will each receive $1,000.
In accordance with CDC guidelines, Manzer said the festival will have signs placed throughout the grounds directing folks to socially distance and wear a face mask. He said attendees have a responsibility to the city and each other to remain vigilant during the event.
Furthermore, Rotary members will be on hand reminding folks to wear their mask properly and to remain six feet apart. There will also be limited capacity within the plant tent.
“The city has entrusted us to let us have this festival and to avoid it become a super-spreader event,” Manzer said. “We have to remind people to be responsible.”
Manzer added hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the event, with disinfectant donated by Craft Spirits. He said the festival and activities will be managed appropriately but this is a step toward normalcy.
“If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to attend, but at some point, life has to get somewhat normal and this is a step in that direction,” Manzer said. “It’s really important and people are stuck in their house and need something to do that’s both safe and fun.”
The Cherry Blossom Festival and Plant Sale will take place on May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Peekskill Riverfront Green Park. For more information, visit https://peekskillrotary.com/page/cherry-blossom-festival.