India International Cherry Blossom Festival will be hosted from November 14 -17, 2018 in Shillong. Credit: EastMojo Image

Shillong: What started as a seed of an idea in the fertile mind of a flora fanatic, blossomed into a unique autumnal feat of colourful foliage, spreading sheer joy and cheer in Shillong since 2016 – The Cherry Blossom Festival.

The beautiful idea of a unique cherry blossoms festival first took form in the mind of Professor Dinabandhoo Sahoo, director of Imphal-based Institute of Bio Resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), when he spotted a solitary cherry blossom tree on his visit to Shillong in 2014.

“I was mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of the cherry blossoms while attending the famous Sakura Festival in Japan. And, while on my trip to Shillong, spotting that solitary cherry blossom tree outside the window of my hotel flooded my mind with those beautiful memories. I wondered what it would be like to have a cherry blossom festival of our own right here in India,” Sahoo reminisces.

What followed was two full years of Dr Sahoo’s relentless efforts to help the state government take notice of the beautiful Himalayan cherry blossom species and organizing a full-fledged festival to boost the economy of the North-east, attract more tourists and promote sustainable tourism in the region.

“The India International Cherry Blossom Festival 2017, which was celebrated to mark the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development attracted more than one lakh visitors and boosted the local economy by 300%,” he recollected with pride.

This year, the festival has been rechristened as the India International Cherry Blossom Festival and will be hosted from November 14 to 17 in Shillong.

A host of events have been lined up for the four-day festival, including traditional archery contests, local rock band performances, painting competitions, stunt bikers display, beauty pageant, women’s football match, golf tournament, live music gigs, storytelling sessions among many others.

Praising the IBSD initiative, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma observed that the Cherry Blossoms Festival has provided the state with a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the Japanese counterparts for various cultural exchange initiatives. “It’s a matter of pride for us that the Embassy of Japan has come in as a strategic partner for this year’s festival and we are looking forward that this relationship blossoms further and bears fruit,” Sangma reiterated.

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