By Trent Cross
A time-honored tradition in the Central Valley for over 60 years is rolling with the pandemic punches and going virtual this year. Fresno State knows the importance of exposure to higher education and public speaking at an early age. For 62 years, Fresno State has done its part in cultivating this exposure for Central Valley’s elementary-aged children.
Organizers canceled the 2020 Peach Blossom Festival one day before children from all over the Valley were scheduled to visit the campus to perform selections of poetry and literature. The cancellation was a necessary step to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but was painfully disappointing to thousands of local kids, teachers and parents.
This year, Fresno State brings the Peach Blossom Festival back to these resilient students on March 25-26, entirely online. Fresno State student organizers have built a new website to feature performance submissions from individual students, entire classes, siblings who learn from home and other performance combinations. The event directors have waived all registration fees so any student with a heart for literature and performance can participate and be recognized regardless of socioeconomic status or situation.
The Peach Blossom Festival typically welcomes over 5,000 students to Fresno State each Spring, bringing thousands of parents and supporters with them. Organizers say keeping this festival alive is vital because it grants inside access to a university for many rural students with no college background or other opportunity to connect to higher education. The interactions and positive experiences shared between the Valley’s youth and Fresno State’s students, faculty and athletes are invaluable.
“Peach Blossom is one of those Fresno events that so many of us — college students, teachers and parents — participated in when we were children and of which we have very fond memories still. It’s an event that’s been around for more than sixty years, and one that we want to be able to protect for sixty more,” said Elise Barba, co-director of this year’s Peach Blossom Festival. “We want today’s kids to grow up with the memories that we have of performing for Fresno State’s Peach Blossom Festival. We’re aren’t sitting this year out – we’re here, we’re working, and we’re prepared and excited to welcome students to the event in a virtual format this year.”
The Festival is co-directed by Communication Department faculty members Christina Wells and Elise Barba. For more information, contact Trent Cross, community outreach lead, at 559.286.7433 or Barba at 559.916.2257.