Theresa Jones, a resident of Virginia, stood smiling under an array of beautiful pink and white blossoms as her friend Candace Williams snapped a picture. This is their second year attending the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington.
“It is so beautiful this year,” Jones said. “The trees are in full bloom, and it makes a nice background for a picture. The weather is also nice this year.”
“Yeah,” Williams agreed. “The blossoms are much prettier this year, and the weather is a lot nicer. I thought that it was going to be cold again, but I am happy to see that it is not.”
It is that time of year again, and the cherry trees along the National Mall are in full blossom, adding beautiful pink and white accents to the landscape. People from all around the world have been gathering along the yards of the National Mall and the Tidal Basin for the Smithsonian’s Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The Cherry Blossom Festival has been an annual ritual since 1992. It is a two-week festival that begins in late March and continues into April, ending with a Cherry Blossom Parade. This year’s parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 12, and will feature singing by Keke Palmer, who has appeared on the Disney Channel and starred in the film “Akeelah and the Bee.”
The origin of the celebration of the cherry trees began in 1912 when Yukio Ozaki, the mayor of Tokyo, presented the United States with a gift of 3,000 cherry trees. First Lady Herron Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first trees along the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park during a small ceremony in March of 1912. Over a decade later, a group of schoolchildren held another ceremony and in 1935 the first festival took place. The trees have been a symbol of friendship among America and Japan.
The Cherry Blossom Festival attracts thousands of people each year. On the kick-off day for this year’s festival, the Metro cars were packed with natives and tourists. Many passengers exited at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station on the green, yellow, orange and blue lines and made their way to the National Mall to view the cherry blossoms and to participate in the two-week festivities.
This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival has been a real treat for visitors. For several years, the weather has not permitted the trees to blossom at the time of the opening ceremony. This year, however, they were in full bloom. Along with taking photographs of the trees, visitors have participated in several activities at the festival such as the Cherry Chit-Chat Run with the National Park Rangers and the Cherry Blossoms Photo Safaris.
“I am anticipating tonight; I really want to do the Cherry Blossom Lantern Walk and see them lit up at night,” said Ashley Thomas, a tourist from Florida who has frequented the Cherry Blossom Festival occasionally over the years. “I think that the walk will be one of the most exciting festive activities for me.”
For more information on the festival, visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.