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What began as a simple flower ceremony on March 27th, 1912, when First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the West Potomac Tidal basis, has turned into a national treasure. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. now sees more than a million attendees each year who come to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms and to gather in the spirit of community.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a beloved annual tradition that includes two weeks of viewing thousands of cherry trees, in full glorious blossom, and enjoying activities like a parade, Japanese street festival with performances and food, and much more. Washington D.C. locals and tourists come to the Festival each year to admire the cherry blossoms, have a bit of fun, and participate in events that represent the arrival of spring in the nation’s capital.
The History of the Festival
The first cherry trees planted, in 1912, were part of a gift of 3,000 cherry trees given to the United States by Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki. The trees were reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees from the U.S. to Japan.
Even though the National Cherry Blossom’s seeds were sown in the early 20th century, the first official Festival did not take place until 1935. In 1927, a group of Unites States school children re-enacted the first planting, but civics groups’ sponsorship of the Festival in 1935 confirmed it as an annual tradition.
In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more cherry trees. In 1981, Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the Washington D.C. trees to replace some of their trees that were destroyed in a flood in Japan. The 1994 Festival was the first two-week festival. The festivities were expanded and stretched out to accommodate a rapidly growing activity schedule during the trees’ blooming.
To learn more about the Festival, you can visit the official National Cherry Blossom website. You’ll be able to view peak bloom dates for the cherry blossoms, which on average is April 4th, and find out about all of the activities that will take place as part of the festival.