Spring officially starts March 20th, at least according to the calendar. This winter has been harsh and seems never to end, but warmer temperatures are right around the corner. The start of spring also signifies the start of tourist season in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. The first day of spring is the official start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., which runs from March 20th to April 13th. The festival has special events, family activities and cultural performances staged around the Tidal Basin adjacent to the National Mall.
<h2>History of the Cherry Blossom Festival<h2>
The D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo in 1912. The gift symbolizes and celebrates the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. In 1981, the United States returned the favor by giving Japan cuttings from our trees to replace ones that were destroyed in a flood in Japan. The first trees were planted at the North Bank of the Tidal Basin by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador. Many first ladies have been the honorary chair for many of the events over the decades which have included planting more cherry trees along the Potomac River. The festival is one of the nation’s greatest celebrations of spring, including civic groups, international performers, lecturers, a kite festival, a parade and much more. More than 1.5 million people visit Washington D.C. during the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in the programs.
<h2>National Cherry Blossom Festival Events<h2>
There are many events that are a part of the D.C. cherry blossom Festival from parades to cultural programming. Cherry Blossom Family Days takes place March 22nd and 23rd at the National Building with family friendly activities, special performances, and interactive art demonstrations. The official opening ceremony for the festival is Saturday, March 22nd at the Warner Theater with American and Japanese performers. One of the highlights of the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival is the Blossom Kite Festival, which takes place on the National Mall. The kite flying competition, with special demonstrations and exhibits, takes place March 29th and showcases the creativity of kite flyers and kite makers from around the world. There are daily performances at a stage near the Tidal Basin. National Park Rangers will lead daily programs around the Tidal Basin to explain the history and significance of the trees. The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival takes place on Saturday, April 5th from 1pm to 9pm with music and fun for the entire family. A spectacular fireworks show will end the day’s festivities. April 12th is the 2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade with marching bands, helium balloons, floats and performers all marching down Constitution Avenue. Celebrity performers include Aaron Carter, Regina Belle and Brandon James, from American’s Got Talent.
There are a wide variety of cultural events to showcase our friendship with Japan. One of the events, the Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk with Japanese folk dancers and performers, celebrates the Japanese American spirit of patriotism. The Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival takes place directly after the parade on April 12th at Pennsylvania Ave and 12th Street. The family friendly festival features art, crafts, demonstrations, live entertainment and much more.
There are so many great events to welcome spring at the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival. According to the National Park Service, the peak viewing of the blossoms (or when the blossoms are 70% open) will be April 8th to 12th. However, don’t miss all of the events starting March 20th. Visiting the festival is a great opportunity to share in the history, culture and traditions of Washington D.C.