Literacy blooms at Peach Blossom Festival

Buses from all over the Valley filled the Save Mart Center parking lot beginning on Thursday, delivering nearly 6,000 students to Fresno State’s 55th annual Peach Blossom Festival.

The Peach Blossom Festival is an oral interpretation festival for elementary students and is organized by the Department of Communication. Students perform poems, complete with choreography in same cases, in theatres and classrooms all over campus in front of judges and audiences.

This year, 200 schools registered for the festival. Many of the schools come year after year—some have been attending for over 20 years. Many students who perform have parents who also performed in past years. Students perform solo, in duos or trios, or in large groups of up to 30 students.

Destiny Brazil, the public relations coordinator, said the event helps the students see what the campus looks like and gives them a chance to have fun performing.

“It allows them to get a feel for public speaking and opens them up so they’re not shy,” Brazil said. “A lot of kids take it seriously, but they have fun, too.”

Communication students and professors judge the performances. When the festival first began, performers competed and were ranked based on the judges’ scores. Because the event has grown to such a large scale, now every performance receives a score of either excellent or superior.

Besides seeing the Fresno State campus, one highlight for Peach Blossom students was getting to meet student-athletes and receiving their autographs.

The communication department organizes the festival under the direction of Stacie Mimura. In the past, only four or five students organized the festival, but it has grown so much, more manpower is necessary for the event to be successful.

Now, teams of multiple students work together over the course of a few months to plan every detail of the festival. Mimura handpicks up to 30 students from her classes to hold roles on the different teams that coordinate the festival. Some of the areas that students participate in are the judging team, T-shirt team, button team or registration team.

There are two classes in the communication department devoted to the Peach Blossom Festival— the regular class for newcomers and the leadership class for veterans. The veteran students mentor the new students in the planning processes and tasks for the festival.  Brazil, who worked the festival for her second year, mentored Caroline Sowers for this year’s festival.

Brazil said teamwork and collaboration is what really makes the festival come together.

“There’s a lot of hard teamwork that goes into this,” Brazil said.

Valerie Porter, a third-grade teacher at Coarsegold Elementary, has brought her class to the Peach Blossom Festival for at least 20 years. This year, her class performed David Greenberg’s The Great School Lunch Rebellion, a short children’s book. The class began practicing the story a couple times a day at the start of February.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Porter said. “It’s a great thing that Fresno State does.”