By Dennis Sean O’Brien
WASHINGTON – The National Park Service predicted Thursday the District’s cherry trees will perform a “three-peat” by blooming right in the middle of the two-week cherry blossom festival for the third year in a row.
“They’re going to bloom right smack in the middle of the festival,” between April 4-9, said Robert DeFeo, the park service’s chief horticulturist.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, from March 31 to April 14 this year, celebrates the mayor of Tokyo’s 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the people of Washington. The trees were meant to memorialize Japan’s friendship with the United States.
The trees’ pink and white flowers will be in peak bloom during the festival, along West Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin, DeFeo said. The harsh winter had no effect on them, he said.
“We hope that this year the festival will be the best ever,” said Cora Masters Barry, the mayor’s wife.
Festival events will include: concerts, art shows, a sushi demonstration, a kimono show, a 10-mile run through Potomac Park, a commemorative postal cancellation, golf, tennis and rugby tournaments, a crew invitational and a parade down Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets.
The lighting of a Japanese lantern and crowning of the festival’s queen, University of Pennsylvania senior Jessica Dawn Stoner, opens the festival on March 31. Japanese ambassador Kunihiko Saito and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Jr. will officiate the ceremony at 6th and Water streets NW.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival Committee selected the queen from nominations submitted for students of Japanese and Asian studies at about 330 colleges and universities nationwide.
Stoner, from Marysville, Pa., is fluent in Japanese and a varsity cheerleader at Penn. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in East Asian international relations and peace studies.
She will be formally crowned April 8 at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Gala at the Hyatt Regency. The Mikimoto Crown, made for the Japanese imperial household, is decorated with 1,585 pearls.
WRC-TV is sponsoring a “Battle of the Bands” contest to choose three area marching bands to represent the region in the in the 26th annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. The deadline for bands to enter is Feb. 26.
Grandstand seats for the April 13 parade cost $12.
Also on parade day, Washington Harbor will be filled with competitors from 15 colleges in a crew contest sponsored by George Washington University.
This year’s festival has official airlines, an official hotel, an official television station, an official radio station and even an official hair salon – Salon Roi Inc., “site of the landmark Marilyn Monroe mural.”
For further information, call the festival hotline at (202) 547-1500.