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Cherry blossoms gone, but festival is bigger, longer than ever

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Click on photo to enlarge or download: The cherry blossoms were in full bloom Friday at the Tidal Basin before a weekend rain blew many flowers to the ground. SHFWire photo by Jessica SabbahClick on photo to enlarge or download: The cherry blossoms were in full bloom Friday at the Tidal Basin before a weekend rain blew many flowers to the ground. SHFWire photo by Jessica SabbahWASHINGTON – The blossoms are gone, but the festival must go on.

And it is going big. Expanded from 16 days last year to five weeks, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrating the centennial of the gift of Japanese cherry blossom trees from Japan to the nation’s capital.

The festival started March 20, and goes through April 27, with activities every day, many free.

The approximately 3,700 Japanese cherry blossom trees in D.C. represent “rebirth, renewal and the continued strong bonds between the United States and Japan,” Danielle Piacente, the festival’s communications manager, said.

 

“The entire city is on board. Washington, D.C., owns spring, and from the taxicabs, to the restaurants to the hotels, everyone is participating,” Piacente said.

More than 50 organizations are putting on events.

“The response is phenomenal,” Piacente said.

More than a million people are expected to visit D.C. for the festival. Last year, the festival generated $126 million in tourism dollars, according to Destination DC.

Japanese R&B singer Misia and Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and pianist, Sara Bareilles performed at the opening ceremony.

The world’s largest pop group, AKB48 from Japan, was scheduled to perform twice on Tuesday at the Lincoln Theatre.

The City in Bloom campaign is another part of the centennial celebration. Piacente said the goal is to “bring the spirit of the Tidal Basin” to other parts of the city with pink lighting on buildings and floral stickers on storefronts and Metro fare gates.

The main question people ask is when are the cherry blossoms blooming, Piacente said.

Even with the blossoms mostly gone, Piacente said there are still five weeks of events.

That includes a kite festival on Saturday, fireworks on April 7, the festival parade April 14 and a closing block party April 27.

The first National Cherry Blossom Festival in 1927 was as a three-day event consisting mostly of school children doing a performance and a tree planting.

The festival still includes tree plantings and entertaining and educational activities for young people.  

Reach reporter Brooke Kelly kellyb@shns.com or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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