Sakura Matsuri cancelled for second year in a row due to COVID concerns

Cowra's Sakura Matsuri Festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding Sydney's COVID-19 outbreak.

Manager of Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre, Shane Budge, made the call last Thursday to cancel this year's event, which was scheduled for September 25, 2021.

Mr Budge said it was a difficult decision however the impact of outbreak on the planned entertainment, accommodation providers, local businesses and wider Cowra community was taken into consideration.

"It's very difficult to plan forward when you don't know what's going to happen after the end of August," he said.

"Things were well under way, all of the entertainment was booked, all the accommodation was booked and to be fair to accommodation providers and everyone else involved, you can't get to the end of August, find that Sydney has some sort of continuing restrictions that doesn't enable people to come, and cancel last minute.

"Apart from the consideration for the garden itself, you've also got to consider all the other businesses that are affected by the decision you make, if you make it too late in the process."

Mr Budge said around 90 per cent of the Festival's performers come from Sydney or interstate.

"The [Taiko] drummers come from Melbourne, we were having Tetsuta Watanabe, who was here for Koyo doing the book reading, he was going to come up from Melbourne and we have Misako Piper, the Soprano who comes from Canberra but potentially all the rest comes from Sydney," he said.

Despite being forced to cancel the 2020 event, Mr Budge said the garden saw a record amount of visitors, particularly from metropolitan areas.

He hopes there may be a chance to replicate that success this year.

"Even though we've had to cancel, I think the positive to look forward to is, if Sydney does come out of lockdown in time for the beginning of our spring, I think the visitors will come to Cowra anyway," he said.

"The financial year to June 30 was a record year for us as far as visitors went, that was over 71,000 visitors.

"Right now, since the school holidays, our numbers have crashed, some days we're only getting between 10 and 20 people through the garden.

"You've just got to ride the wave and do the best that you can."

Mr Budge said the financial impact of the Festival's cancellation remains to be seen.

"Much depends on whether people can travel in NSW or not," he said.

"If you can come out, I'd expect that financially it won't impact us greatly in that, we won't have the costs of the Festival but we should still, with a little luck, have some visitation for the spring similar to what occurred last year.

"If Sydney's still in lockdown, it will be devastating."

Mr Budge said the garden is also looking at alternative plans throughout spring, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

"If Sydney does come out of lockdown and things are under control... what we will be looking to do is try and host individual events, demonstrations, workshops or cultural activities in the garden week to week," he said.

"One the things that we're very conscience of is meeting our mission to educate and share Japanese culture with the public, with the locals and the visitors.

"It just depends on what we can do and when we can do it."

Mr Budge said the health and safety of the Cowra community was paramount.

"Everything is too uncertain, you just can't make definite decisions with the way things are at the moment," he said.

"The last thing we at the garden or the board wants to do is host what could become a super spreading event.

"Best to err on the side of caution and hope that everything turns out in the long run."