Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cherry Blossoms at 100 Years

Family Day at the National Building Museum
Bigger, better, more. That could be the motto of this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival. 2012 marks 100 years since the original trees were gifted to the United States from Japan --to the District from Tokyo, to be precise-- and planted in the area we now know as the Tidal Basin. Before the Jefferson Memorial, before the FDR Memorial, before the Lincoln Memorial, there were cherry trees. How does one celebrate 100? By throwing the longest, most elaborate party ever. That's what the NCBF folks are doing. The Festival runs a full 5 weeks -- March 20-April 27.

The Festival is not limited to the Mall. Venues and events are located all over the city and all over the calendar between now and April 27. The party literally started last night with the Pink Tie Party at Dupont's Mayflower Hotel. This weekend, the large scale programming begins with two blockbuster events, National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Days and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony.

Family Days --as in two days, up from one-- feature performances and hands-on craft activities and typically serves as the big kickoff event for the Festival. Philatelists, get excited; the USPS will begin issuing their Cherry Blossom Centennial Forever stamp here. Good stuff. That's this weekend! The venue is the National Building Museum, in Judiciary Square. Saturday 10:00AM-4:30PM and Sunday 11AM-3:30PM. FREE.

The Opening Ceremony has typically been held at the Family Day venue, but this year it has been moved to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center due to the size of expected crowds. Doors open at 3:30PM this Sunday and the ceremony begins at 5:00PM. FREE, but ticketed.

There are too many events to list here, but check out the highlights on the NCBF website. The event I always attend, rain, shine or otherwise is Sakura Matsuri, the street festival. For me, it marks the beginning of DC street festival season, which unofficially runs through October.

And of course, go see the cherry blossom trees. Check the bottom of this NCBF page for a cool map and walking/biking directions to the trees in and around the Tidal Basin. Go during the week to miss out on the largest crowds. Trust me on this one. And enjoy. The 100th anniversary only happens once!