Weather Permitting, Expect the Largest Turnout Ever

Cherry Blossom Festival Changes/Arrangements Start Tonight

Updated 10 weeks ago David Stone
Performances, FDR Four Freedoms Park at Cherry Blossom Festival 2018.
Performances, FDR Four Freedoms Park at Cherry Blossom Festival 2018.
File photo

Although the pace has been laggardly and the process ragged, sponsors and organizers of Roosevelt Island 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival seem to be tightening up in time for Saturday's event. Changes begin at 7:00 tonight.

Cherry Blossom Festival Overview

The Weather: As of now, soaking rains tonight are expected to end before daybreak on festival day. Saturday will be mild but cloudy with a high in the mid 70s. Lingering humidity and scant help from sunshine means you should prepare for soggy grounds and some puddles.

Food: FDR Four Freedoms Park notes that, while food and drink are allowed in strictly limited spaces inside the park, ample opportunities abound for picnicking along the cherry blossom ringed Promenades leading up to Southpoint.

None of the hosts or sponsors released any information about food vendors, but you've gotta eat, right? 

The café at Cornell Tech, in the Bloomberg Building, with easy access along the West Promenade and ample indoor and outdoor seating, offers a themed Yakitori Grill menu for hungry festival goers, starting at 11:00.

Otherwise, on Main Street, north of the Subway, you can grab some takeout from Nisi, Wholesome Factory, Fuji East, Subway, Starbucks and China One.

Last year, enjoying music and dance on the steps in Four Freedoms Park...
Last year, enjoying music and dance on the steps in Four Freedoms Park...
File photo

On its website, RIOC now has a page detailing arrangements for security and traffic outside the festival. And FDR Four Freedoms Park, which gets credit for making the event happen at all, posted a well-organized event page, weeks ago.

Four Freedoms page features a list of music and dance performances:

12:30pm Opening Remarks

1:00pm Shamisen Japanese String Ensemble (Kicho Kai)

1:30pm Japanese classical dance (IchiFuji-kai Dance Association)

2:05pm Koto (Masayo Ishigure and Koto Shamisen Ensemble)

2:40pm Japanese blues (Kayo Yoshioka)

3:10pm Japanese Folk Dances (Roosevelt Island Japanese Association Yosakoi Dancers)

3:35pm Community Folk Dance Lesson (sponsored by Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance)

4:05pm Japanese Taiko Drummers (Soh Daiko)

But first, you need to get there.

Kids in traditional garb perform, Cherry Blossom Festival 2018.
Kids in traditional garb perform, Cherry Blossom Festival 2018.
File photo

Cherry Blossom Festival Transportation

By Subway: You had to expect the MTA to fumble, once again breaking a promise to leave F Train service alone until the Tram's back at full service, and the State agency doesn't disappoint. There will be no F Train service for Roosevelt Island. Fs will be detoured along the E Line. In fact, there will be no 6th Avenue service in Manhattan on any line.

Partial recovery -- Between 21st Street/Queensbridge and 63rd/Lex, with Roosevelt Island being the tasty morsel in-between, E Trains will run on the F Line in both directions, all weekend. Be prepared, though. After 63rd/Lex, Es go off on the R Line, that is, Broadway Local. 

If you're coming here from anywhere beyond the most immediate subway stops, grab an E on its normal route in Queens, and if you're in Manhattan, pony over to Broadway to catch a ride.

By Tram: RIOC quietly (?) announced big news that both Tram cabins will be in service during the festival, although specific hours were strangely missing. Expect the hugely popular Tram, sporting sky high views of cherry blossoms necklacing the Island, to be jammed with long lines possible, even with both cabins going full time.

By Car: If you must... 

First, no traffic or parking will be allowed south of the Roosevelt Island Tram Plaza, including Cornell Tech's campus, from 7:00 p.m. Friday until 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. That includes RIOC's Red Buses, and no announcements have been made about transportation for the physically challenged who hope to attend the festival. (Yes, RIOC was asked but did not respond specifically, so far.)

Motorgate Parking: "Visitor parking at the Motorgate garage will be limited to ensure adequate parking for residents and patrons with a monthly permit. Residents without a monthly access card should be prepared to show proof of residency when approaching the Roosevelt Island Bridge at Vernon Boulevard."

RIOC advises that, in addition, expected heavy traffic and security concerns mean access to the Roosevelt Island Bridge may be limited.

Security Checkpoints: Public Safety Department officers, augmented by outside security, will set up checkpoints, starting at 10:00 a.m. on both loop roads south of the Tram Plaza. 

Be prepared:

Bag Checks/Prohibited Items:
Soft bag checks will be made.

Prohibited Items

NO Beach umbrellas, tents, or canopies

NO Grills or cooking

NO Fireworks, sharp objects, or weapons of any kind

NO Camera tripods or lighting equipment.

NO Portable audio systems or speakers.

NO Glass bottles

NO Smoking

NO Bullhorns or noise makers

Now, you've got all the details we have from every source we can scare up. Have fun in Roosevelt Island's annual festival celebrating our glorious cherry blossoms and Japanese culture.

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