As cold, dank winter weather yields to spring, Washingtonians can look forward to the emergence of the soft, delicate petals of the Japanese cherry tree, a local tradition that dates back to 1912 when Japan gave the U.S. hundreds of the beautiful trees with fragile flowers as a gesture of friendship.
The flowering cherry tree, or sakura, has rich meaning in Japanese culture. The trees can be seen throughout the city but for more than a century, the Tidal Basin has been the epicenter of celebration of the flowering cherry blossoms.
Monday afternoon, Diana Mayhew, executive director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, unveiled plans for the events for 2021 that will take place from March 20 to April 11.
“In keeping with the festival tradition we will unite the city and the region, engaging local businesses and restaurants,” said Mayhew during a virtual press conference. “And we will be in bloom with pink lighting and blossom decor including neighborhood portraits this year.”
Mayhew said while the community will miss the tradition of the parade, a striking and celebratory procession down Constitution Avenue, this year there are plans to present the 2021 festival in innovative and fun ways.
D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said he is most excited that the festival will take place “in all eight wards,” of the District despite winter dominated by COVID-19.
The bloom of the cherry blossom is connected to temperature and this year that time is estimated to be between April 2 and April 5.
The ceremonial start of the Cherry Blossom Festival will be on March 20 with performers from Japan and the District of Columbia and the co-host will be Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi (born July 12, 1971) an American former figure skater who was the 1992 Olympic champion and a two-time world champion.
Japanese Ambassador Tomita Koji, who appeared by video, characterized the blossoms as “the symbol of the unshakable friendship between Japan and the United States” and hailed District officials for “keeping the spirit (of the festival) alive despite the pandemic.”
A key feature of the festival is kite flying. March 15 there will be classes on how to make kites and on March 27 and 28 kite-flying is encouraged by festival organizers.
On April 10 and 11 there is to be in all eight wards, a “Petal Procession” cruise.
For more events, go to nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/event/parade.