Cherry Blossoms in D.C.

Over the course of the next few days I will share more about my trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the University of Minnesota’s U-Lead Advisory Academy. I must start, however, with the story of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which was in full swing during our visit.

The two-week-long festival continues through Sunday, but today is the Cherry Blossom parade.

This was my first trip to our nation’s capitol during the blossoming of the cherry trees, and what a beautiful sight it was to see the delicate flowers clinging to trees around the Tidal Basin near the National Mall.

While others in the U-Lead group walked through the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials, I crossed a few streets and headed toward a cluster of cherry trees, where I discovered a wedding party being photographed among the beautiful blossoms.

The trees – there are 3,000 in all – were a gift to the city of Washington, D.C., in 1912 from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo, Japan. The trees replaced a previous gift of 2,000 cherry trees that arrived in 1910, but were diseased.

The blossoming of the cherry trees each year is celebrated with a festival to honor the friendship of the two countries.

According to the Cherry Blossom Festival website, 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 Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park in a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912.

In 1915, the U.S. Government reciprocated Japan with the gift of flowering dogwood trees; and in 1965, Washington, D.C., was gifted another 3,800 cherry trees – accepted by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.

From the website: “The various stages of bloom on the trees are wonderful each in their own way, from the vivid pink of the buds about to burst, to the softer pink of the blossoms on the trees, to the snowy white environment of the petals falling off the trees.”

Our visit earlier this week was filled with views of the soft-pink to white blossoms, and the air was filled with the soft scent they emitted.

While my photos aren’t scratch-n-sniff, at least you can get a view of the beauty I saw on this journey to our nation’s capitol.

By the way, the Cherry Blossom Festival website says the 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival will be March 20 through April 27 (It is being extended because next year marks the 100th Anniversary of the gift of trees.) The 2012 parade will be Saturday, April 14.

If you go, be prepared for lots of traffic – especially on the weekends! Our Sunday afternoon city tour via bus was wonderful, but there was so much traffic we couldn’t get close to the Jefferson Memorial, one of the most photographed memorials during the blossoming of the trees.

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