A 1912 “friendship” gift of 3000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, set the stage for what is now the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Starting March 29, and running through April 13, the festival will draw over 1,000,000 visitors to the greater Washington, DC area, including Alexandria. A full, two week schedule of activities will feature everything from sake tasting to kite flying to a parade to the largest Japanese Street Festival in the United States.
First Lady Helen Heren Taft planted the first two cherry trees on March 27, 1912. That same year the United States sent flowering dogwoods to Japan as a gift and did so again in 1965. During the duration of World War II the Japanese trees were referred to as “Oriental” trees and the festival was suspended between 1942 and 1946.
A second gift of 3,800 trees was accepted by then First Lady, Lady B. Johnson whose campaign to beautify America began here in the nation’s capital with thousands and thousands of flowering bulbs planted in public areas.
Did you know?
- Beavers gnawed down 4 trees in 1999 creating a scandal on par with Watergate. The beavers were subsequently trapped and ‘relocated’ but with relatives still in the area, Park Police are ever vigilant.
- A 357 year old stone lantern, one of a pair from a temple in Tokyo, has officially opened the festival every year since its arrival in 1954.
- When the site for the Jefferson Memorial was picked in 1937, some 1,000 cherry trees needed to be removed. The “Cherry Tree Rebellion” ensued with a group of women chaining themselves to the trees. President Franklin Roosevelt did not back down – although he did order the trees removed in the middle of the night to avoid further confrontation.
- A single tree of unknown origin or pedigree is the ‘indicator tree’ used by the National Park Service to predict blooms because it blooms approximately one week ahead of the other thousands of trees.
- The flowering trees are a favorite background for Japanese brides. Early morning bloom watchers may catch fully gowned bridal parties sitting pretty.
And what is a festival without a princess or two? Every state in the Union, plus U.S. territories, is represented by a princess. Or a parade? This year’s parade on April 12 will feature Miss America 2008, Kristen Haglund of Michigan and 11 marching bands including:
Dunbar High School Marching Band – Washington, DC
Ballou High School Marching Band – Washington, DC
Sparkman High School Marching Band – Harvest, AL
Beckman High School Patriot Marching Band – Irvine, CA
Lowndes High School Georgia Bridgeman – Valdosta, GA
Acadiana High School Band – Lafayette, LA
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School Marching Colonials – Acton, MA
Roaring Bengals Marching Band/James Herbert Blake HS- Silver Spring, MD
Chartiers Valley High School Showband – Bridgeville, PA
The Band of Blue, Colleton County High School – Walterboro, SC
Timpview High School Marching Band – Provo, UT
Virginia Tech, Hightie Tighties - Blacksburg, VA
Enjoy! The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the great harbingers of spring and one of the great delights of living in this area.
Thanks for stopping by,