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Festival draws millions, despite late blooms

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Local,DC,Kate Jacobson,Cherry Blossom Festival

Tom and Lynne Zidelis drove nearly 500 miles to see Washington D.C.'s famed cherry blossoms, and despite the lack of blooms, they weren't disappointed.

"The weather has been fabulous," Tom Zidelis, a 49-year-old Douglas, Mass., man, said while eating lunch on the lawn near the Tidal Basin. "We didn't know what to expect."

This year's Cherry Blossom Festival -- which began in late March and continues through April 14 -- brings millions into the city. Historically, the peak for the blossoms has varied from March 15 to April 18. The National Parks Service had forecast that the blossoms would reach their showiest point in the last week in March but rolled their prediction back to this weekend after a sudden snap of cool weather.

"Exactly when the buds will open is not easy to predict and it is extremely difficult to give an accurate forecast much more than 10 days before peak bloom," the National Cherry Blossom festival wrote on its website.

While the Tidal Basin's trees were tickled with pink, most buds hadn't fully popped. But that didn't disuade visitors from around the world from trekking toward the Jefferson Memorial to catch a glimpse of the trees.

"It's actually very pretty," Lynne Zidelis said. "The flowers are nice -- we don't have that at home yet."

On Saturday, temperatures hung in the mid-50s and skies were clear. On Sunday, the annual Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run will bring runners through the city, including U.S. Olympians Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, Jen Rhines and Colleen De Reuck, who will be competing in the USA Women's 10 Mile Championship.

Also enjoying the weather and the blossoms were Yvonne Villarreal, 50, of Stafford, Va., and her two daughters Paige and Emily. The family frequently comes up to D.C. and enjoys seeing the blossoms in the spring.

With them was Villarreal's niece Sierra Jeffery, 24, of Arizona. It was her first visit during the festival, and though the blooms weren't everything she expected, she was enjoying her afternoon.

"I can definitely see if they were blossoming, it would be amazing," she said. "But the ones I've seen so far today are pretty."

The weather alone was a reason for the family to take advantage of a Saturday afternoon. Clad in pink Washington D.C. sweatshirts and enjoying some snacks on the lawn, the four said the day had been good so far.

"Today is truly gorgeous," Villarreal said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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