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The Cherry Blossom Festival Returns to America’s Capital

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
The Cherry Blossom Festival Returns to America’s Capital
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The National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrating its 110th anniversary. The popular event celebrating U.S.-Japanese ties, is once again being held in person. The most flowers are expected between March 22 and March 25.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is being held Washington, D.C. after two years of restrictions because of COVID-19.

"This year, more than ever, you really understand why the festival is so important," said Diana Mayhew. She is the president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., the non-profit group that helps organize the events. "We recognize that it's more than just a festival. It's about spring and renewal and a sense of new beginnings."

Weather changes and peak bloom

The National Park Service helps oversee the festival. The service estimates the cherry trees will have the most flowers, a time called peak bloom, between March 22 and 25. The special events start with the opening ceremony on March 20. They continue through April 17, with musical shows and other events like a parade on Saturday April 9.

Mike Litterst is a spokesman for the Park Service. He said although there was cold weather and snow recently it would not hurt the cherry blossoms. Temperatures below freezing can damage the blooms. In 2017 a late frost destroyed almost 50 percent of the flowers.

Trees in some areas of Washington have already started to blossom. However, the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin near the center of the city have not begun to flower. The area is a favorite place for tourist and photographers.

Litterst said the blossoms are still firmly inside of their buds. He said the buds act like an armor, giving the blossoms protection. If temperatures are lower next week, there might be some problems he said, adding, “I think we’ll be OK this time.”

Combining festival activities

For the past two years, large gatherings and crowds have been restricted because of the COVID-19 health emergency. City officials closed streets and public transportation around the Tidal Basin to block people from observing the pink-colored blossoms. The festival organizers worked hard to create safe ways for people to enjoy the yearly celebration of spring, including live videos and internet presentations.

This year, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared, "We want D.C. to be the face of spring for the nation."

This year also marks the 110th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees presented in 1912 by the mayor of Tokyo to the nation’s capital. Japan's government remains deeply involved in the festival and often exchanges about 90 old trees for new ones every year.

Ryo Kuroishi of the Japanese Embassy, joked at this year’s festival announcement that, "It feels a little strange to have all these people right in front of me instead of little Zoom squares."

Mayhew, the festival’s president, said this year will include a joint event with usual and video experiences for those who are still not sure about attending public gatherings or traveling to the event.

Mayhew said, "We're spreading it out and being as cautious and as health conscious as possible. There's so many people who want to connect, even if they can't make it."

Popular activities will return this year. They include Bloom Cam, live video of the cherry blossoms. Petal Porches is an activity where people living in the city decorate the front of their homes with pictures and objects that look like cherry blossoms. The results are shown on the internet.

The popular March 26 kite flying festival will take place as it has in the past in the area surrounding the Washington Monument. But locals can hold their own kite flying events in areas where it is permitted.

I’m Faith Pirlo

Ashraf Khalil reported this story for the Associated Press. Faith Pirlo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

renewal n. the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again; the condition of being renewed

peak bloom n. a time when the U.S. National Park Service says that 70 percent of the cherry blossoms are in full bloom

frost n. when freezing temperatures cause ice to form on the ground

tourist –n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure

buds n. a growth on the end of a tree or plant that turns into a flower or leaf

armor n. a protective covering

conscious –adj. knowing about or thinking about something

decorate v. to make something nice-looking by adding things to it

porches n. an area outside a building or home that has a covering over it

kite n. an object that has a light frame and cloth that can be used for flying in the air with the wind

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