In bloom: Cherry Blossom Fest celebrates 100 years

Entertainment,Robert Fulton

Photo gallery: Cherry blossoms at the National Mall

The warm weather is downright weird.

Just ask the cherry trees along the tidal basin.

With the mercury higher than usual, and expected to reach 80 degrees on Friday, the cherry trees are blooming with their world-famous flowers earlier than typical this year. Peak bloom started Tuesday, and is expected to run through Friday.

The website for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs through April 27, has a page that lists peak bloom times in previous years. In 2000, the trees bloomed on March 17, but flowering the last week of March or the first week of April is more common.

“It’s only about a week earlier,” said festival President Diana Mayhew. “Mother Nature wanted to coincide with our opening. We hope they last through the end of the weekend.”

With predicting peak bloom part science and part guesswork, and the festival spreading across many weeks, some festivalgoers are bound to miss the prime flowering period.

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival typically runs 16 days. But in celebration of the centennial of the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki to Washington, D.C., the festival this year runs five weeks.

“The trees are a major connection,” Mayhew said of the relationship between Japan and the United States. “It’s really a spring-time celebration. Japan is at the heart of it.”

The trees have thrived for 100 years, as has the relationship between two countries that were once at war with each other.

“The trees have survived it all,” Mayhew said.

Highlights this year include the opening party at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center featuring musician Sara Bareilles, official stamps, artwork by Peter Max, and a new app to get all the latest news.

“There are so many ways a person can participate and join in,” Mayhew said.
This is not only the 100th anniversary of the planting of the first cherry tree from Japan in D.C. It is also the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last year.

“They are rebuilding and very hopeful and moving forward,” Mayhew said.
National Cherry Blossom Festival highlights
With five weeks of fun, this year’s festival is jam-packed with things to do. Here are some highlights. For more information, visit national
» Opening Ceremony: Sunday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (doors at 3:30 p.m.). Free, but an advance ticket is required (see website).
» Kite Festival: March 31 at the Washington Monument grounds. 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free.
» Fireworks Festival: April 7 at the Southwest Waterfront. Event starts at 1 p.m., fireworks at 8:30 p.m. Free.
» Parade: April 14 on Constitution Avenue between Seventh and 17th streets. 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. $20 for grandstand seating, free along parade route.
» Japanese Street Festival: April 14 at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $5 for ages 13 and older.

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