Every first or second week of September Springfield, MO plays host to a wonderful Fall Festival that is a celebration of the bonds between sister city Isesaki, Japan and Springfield, MO. Every year artisans, crafters and cultural icons are flown out from the respective Japanese city and the residents of Springfield are able to dip their toes into an otherwise alien, yet fanciful culture. Every year, local shops and cosplay groups come out to support this endeavor and it is an endeavor worth supporting fully. I had the wonderful and amazing opportunity to cover the event as press and boy was it a wonderful event this year.
The food was varied, the vendors where plentiful and the crowds were larger. This was my second year going and it of course seemed much grander than the previous year. The crowds seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and the stage area was packed to the brim, full of excited guests and families. There was never a sense of being out of place or in a foreign land. It was just… people being happy. Celebrating the bond between two cities from two corners of the globe. This festival has been going on for several decades and it seems to only foster mutual appreciation between the two cities in question. I can personally attest to having experienced one of the best events in recent memory.
Sure I go there to also help promote and photograph cosplayers. It is an integral part of Japanese culture that much of the world picks up on. It should come to no surprise that someone like me would not be going. It just is a given and it is one that I enjoy so much. Seeing perspective and curious individuals approach the cosplay booths and those who are in cosplay to inquire about it speaks loudly. I’ve never seen so many parents who pushed their children to embrace the day and the ideas like I saw at this festival. It felt unburdened by hate and prejudice.
As far as the festivities of the event are concerned, they will vary from showings of traditional calligraphy painting to kid-friendly activities. The local Springfield Cosplay is another group that holds a booth there and helps to handle the cosplay side of things. There are of course vendors and performers that are their every year and help to sell stuff that is related to the ongoing festivities and the promotion of bands that come to perform. Saint Louis Taiko Drum School is always a major headliner for the event, performing down here for the enjoyment of the attendees. If that wasn’t enough, you also have the Japanese Stroll Garden itself to marvel in and enjoy to it’s fullest extent. It is honestly a beautiful garden with snaking paths and tranquil spots for relaxation. In my case it also made for a perfect photography point of interest.
There was something here for anyone and everyone to enjoy. You didn’t need to bring anything more than time, spending money and an open mind. An experience like this is one that everyone should attempt to enjoy every chance they can get. Not only does it go a long way in promoting better relations between cities and countries, but it fosters a greater understanding.
Overall I believe it is the small things that matter most in life and the local fall festival is a celebration that is often overshadowed and under promoted. I can attest to this having scoured the social media pages for my cities twitter profiles. Their just isn’t much going on, outside of the local park board promotion. With this all being taken into account, I believe that it still is an event that is widely successful and popular for all the right reasons.
Lastly a big thank you to friends, Lucia (Fruitless Cos), Jessica and Giselle for allowing me to take pictures of your cosplay during the festival days and for a memorable time. Thank you to the park board for also providing us with a complimentary press pass to cover the event! I would encourage everyone far and wide to seek out local events at parks that help to promote the bond between sister cities or cultural celebrations.
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