WASHINGTON – The nation’s capital is about to roll out its pink carpet and celebrate spring in a big way: the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Held March 26 – April 10 (16 days over three weekends), the festival promotes traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and community spirit. Hundreds of events are scheduled to take place throughout Washington including:
• Opening ceremony with renown pianist Keiko Matsui on March 26 at the National Building Museum
• Family Day on March 27 at the National Building Museum
• Parade along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets, April 9
• Community Art Show at Union Station, March 22 – April 10
• Photo Safari (workshop), March 26-April 10
• Lantern Walk (led by park rangers around the Tidal Basin), 8-10 p.m. March 26-27
• Jr. Ranger Activity Tent in the Jefferson Memorial parking lot March 26-27
• Kite Festival (demonstration and competition) on March 27 on the Washington Monument Grounds, Constitution Avenue and 17th Street
• Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, 600-800 Water St., SW on April 2
Most events are free; however, some such as high tea on a yacht and photo safari have fees.
Scores of District of Columbia restaurants (70 according to the website) also are cooking up cherry-themed dishes such as cherry glazed duck at Safe Soleil Bar, ginger-infused cherry tart at Buddha Bar, sushi tempura shrimp with cherry cream sauce at Asia Nine, cherry mojito at Masa 14 and a tart cherry-gin cocktail at Dinos.
The festival, entering its 99th year, is expected to draw more than a million people.
Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. The gift and annual celebration honor the friendship between the United States and Japan.
Back in 1912, first lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. Over the years, thousands of trees have arrived from Japan and been planted—some with success. The ones that were planted in 1912 are the ones that turn the Tidal Basin into a cloud of pink each spring.
In fact, there are 3,750 cherry trees of 16 varieties (Weeping Japanese Cherry, Kwanzan Cherry, Afterglow Cherry, Autumn Flowering Cherry, to name a few) on National Park Service land in Washington.
And just in case you’re wondering, experts have determined that the peak bloom date (when 70 percent of the blossoms on the Yoshina cherry trees are open) will be April 4.
For more information on the festival, visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Thirteen days after the first 2,000 cherry trees were planted United States agriculture officials discovered they were diseased and President Taft ordered them destroyed.
First lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees in 1965.
In 1981, Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.
The festival heralds the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital.