Cherry Blossom Festival marks DC’s pandemic comeback

Mar 12, 2022, 9:51 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:38 pm
Normally crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of visitors this time of year, the path under ...
Normally crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of visitors this time of year, the path under the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin is nearly empty as peak bloom approaches due to the coronavirus March 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and related events were cancelled in response to the COVID-19, which has sickened more than 7000 people and left 112 dead so far in the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Cherry Blossom Festival is returning with all its pageantry, Washington’s unofficial re-emergence from two years of pandemic limits and closures.

“This year, more than ever, you really understand why the festival is so important,” said Festival President Diana Mayhew. “We recognize that it’s more than just a festival. It’s about spring and renewal and a sense of new beginnings.”

This year’s cherry blossom trees will reach peak bloom between March 22 and 25, according to National Park Service estimates. The festival kicks off with a March 20 opening ceremony and runs through April 17, with concerts and other events, including a big parade on Saturday April 9.

The weather isn’t exactly cooperating this weekend. Snow and freezing rain are expected. But that shouldn’t hurt, said Mike Litterst, Park Service spokesman for the National Mall. Temperatures below 27 degrees can damage the blooms — something that happened in 2017, when a late frost killed about half the blossoms.

Trees in some Washington neighborhoods have begun to blossom but not around the Tidal Basin — the main focus for tourists and photographers.

“They’re still tightly in their buds,” said Litterst. “The armor of the buds is protecting the blossoms. Another week or so down the road, if this were to happen, we’d have some major concerns. I think we’ll be OK this time.”

During a recent even announcing this year’s plans, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “We want D.C. to be the face of spring for the nation. Let me say, without equivocation, that D.C. is open!”

A similar event two years ago was dominated by questions about whether the festival would happen at all in the face of the steadily advancing COVID-19 virus.

Sure enough, within days, Bowser declared a public health emergency and banned all mass gatherings. Festival organizers spent the month frantically coming up with safe long-distance ways for residents and visitors to enjoy the annual rite of spring, include a live Bloom Cam and virtual video tours.

Local officials resorted to closing down streets and shutting Metro stations in order to keep crowds from gathering at the Tidal Basin to observe the pinkish blooms.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the original 1912 gift of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo. Japan’s government remains heavily involved in the festival and regularly replaces about 90 trees per year.

At the event announcing this year’s festival schedule, Ryo Kuroishi, public affairs counselor for the Japanese Embassy, joked that, “It feels a little strange to have all these people right in front of me instead of little Zoom squares.”

Festival president Mayhew said this year’s events will incorporate a hybrid of the traditional and pandemic innovations that were developed over the past two years for those who are still leery of attending large public gatherings or flying in for the event.

Activities like Petal Porches — where residents are encouraged to decorate their own porches in cherry blossom themes and post the pictures online — will be continued. And the popular Bloom Cam will be back. The March 26 kite flying festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument will take place as usual, but residents will also be encouraged to hold their own smaller kite flying events in featured area parks.

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


Associated Press writer Felicia Biles contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

In an aerial view, freight rail cars sit in a rail yard near shipping containers on November 22, 20...
JOSH FUNK, AP Business Writer

Biden calls on Congress to head off potential rail strike

President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to pass legislation to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks.
23 hours ago
U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference at...
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

Pence calls on Trump to apologize for dinner with antisemite

Former Vice President Mike Pence says Donald Trump “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment” and is calling on him to apologize after his supposed dinner a with Holocaust-denying white nationalist.
23 hours ago
Onlookers watch as law enforcement investigates the site of a fatal shooting in a Walmart on Novemb...
Associated Press

Virginia city holds vigil to honor Walmart shooting victims

The city of Chesapeake, Virginia, has scheduled a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the mass shooting at a Walmart store.
23 hours ago
RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
23 hours ago
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all making news with wild up-and-down swings in value. (File...
KEN SWEET and MICHELLE CHAPMAN, The Associated Press

BlockFi files for bankruptcy, latest crypto company to fail

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, the latest casualty of the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.
23 hours ago
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 11: Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabula...
JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

GOP-controlled Arizona county refuses to certify election

Republican officials in a rural Arizona county refused Monday to certify the 2022 election ahead of the deadline.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Cherry Blossom Festival marks DC’s pandemic comeback