ASHRAF KHALIL – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – The National Cherry Blossom Festival is back with all its festivities, which are hailed as an unofficial restoration of Washington after a two-year limitation and closure of the pandemic.
“This year, like never before, you really understand why the festival is so important,” said festival president Diana Mayhew. “We recognize that this is more than just a festival. It’s spring, renewal and a sense of new beginnings. “
According to the National Parks Service, the peak of flowering of this year’s cherries was reached from 22 to 25 March. The the festival starts with an opening ceremony on March 20 and will run until April 17 with concerts and other events, including a grand parade on Saturday, April 9.
The weather is not very cooperative now. Snow and rain are expected this weekend. But that shouldn’t hurt the development of the trees, said Mike Letterst, a spokesman for the National Trade Center’s parks service. Temperatures below 27 degrees can damage flowering – something that happened in 2017, when late frosts killed about half of the flowers.
But Letterst said: “They are still strong in their beginnings. The shell of the bud protects the flowers. In a week or so, if that happened, we would have serious problems. I think everything will be fine this time. “
During the recent announcement of plans for this year, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, said: “We want the District of Columbia to be the face of spring for the nation. Let me say, without objection, that DC is open! ”
A similar event two years ago was dominated by questions about whether the festival will take place at all in the face of the ever-growing COVID-19 virus.
Of course, within days Bowser declared a state of emergency in health care and banned all mass gatherings. The organizers of the festival throughout the month have been feverishly coming up with safe long-distance routes for residents and guests to enjoy the annual spring ceremony, including live Bloom Cam and virtual video tours.
Local officials appealed closing streets and closing subway stations to keep crowds from gathering in the tidal pool to watch the pink flowers.
This year marks the 110th anniversary of the original gift to the mayor of Tokyo of 3,000 Japanese cherries in 1912. The Japanese government is still actively involved in the festival and regularly replaces about 90 trees a year.
At an event announcing this year’s festival schedule, Rio Kuroishi, public relations adviser at the Japanese Embassy, joked, “It’s a little weird when all these people are standing in front of me instead of the little Zoom squares.”
Festival President Mayhew said this year’s events will include a hybrid of traditional and pandemic innovations that have been developed over the past two years for those who are still afraid to attend large public gatherings or fly to the event.
Activities such as Petal Porches, where residents are encouraged to decorate their porches in cherry blossom themes and post photos online, will continue. And the popular Bloom Cam will be back. The Kite Flying Festival on March 26 at the Washington Monument will be held as usual, but residents will also be invited to hold their own kite launch events in the parks that represent the site.
“We are spreading this and watching as carefully and healthily as possible,” she said. “There are so many people who want to connect, even if they can’t.”
Associated Press writer Felicia Byles contributed to this report.
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