April 04, 2012 10:50
The Cherry Blossom Festival, held every April in Jinhae district of Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, marks its 50th anniversary this year with diverse events including a concert, fireworks displays and a parade.
The event, which celebrates the flowers coming into full bloom, has already established itself as one of the nation's major festive occasions, drawing over 2 million visitors from home and abroad each spring. And this year, the 10-day event that wraps up next Tuesday has more offer than ever before.
An opening ceremony that heralded the beginning of the festival on Saturday saw over 10,000 people attend from across Korea and other Asian countries, while the two-hour concert that featured K-pop stars such as SHINee, Teen Top and Insooni went down a storm.
The flowers are blooming relatively late this year, but the festival's packed itinerary has made it worth the wait. On the first day, fireworks exploded over the shoreline in front of the city for 20 minutes, followed by a traditional event that saw visitors send lit lanterns into the sky while making wishes. Originally, the military used such lantern kites to send signals during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th century.
As participants lined up along the 1-km coast and set off thousands of lanterns at this year's event, the night sky was bathed in a red glow.
The Yeojwa Stream in Jinhae has also been turned into a blaze of light with numerous illuminations highlighting the natural beauty of the cherry blossoms. Every night, a laser show lights up the sky along the 400-m stream for four hours from 5:30 p.m.
The festival will reach its peak with an hour-long parade from 5 p.m. on Friday, when some 1,000 participants divided into 28 teams will honor revered naval commander Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who famously defeated invading Japanese forces in the 16th century. Teams will include a military band, guards on horseback and others in a large armored ship similar to the one used by Yi.
Also, as part of the spring festival, the nation's largest-ever Military Band and Honor Guard Festival will be performed with 14 teams from Friday to Tuesday.
The festival organizing committee expects the total number of visitors to surpass three million this year, up about 10 percent from last year. The festival started as a small ceremony to pay tribute to the Chosun-era admiral in 1952, when his statue was erected in Jinhae, and assumed its current form and length in 1963.
Meanwhile, the city of Changwon will host the International Congress of Educating Cities from April 25-29. Under the theme of "Green Environment, Creative Education," the convention is expected to draw over 2,000 participants including education experts and delegations from 34 member countries.
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