March 4, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival Blooms at the Newseum

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WASHINGTON — After months of harsh winter weather, a press conference held March 4 at the Newseum by the National Cherry Blossom Festival offered some welcome news.

Rob DeFeo, chief horticulturalist at the National Park Service, predicted that the cherry blossom trees, a gift from Japan in 1912, will bloom between March 31 and April 11, and will peak between April 3 and 8.

DeFeo said the historic snowstorms that hit the Washington, D.C., area in the last couple of months did not hurt the trees, adding that the damage was "nothing we haven't seen in the last 90 years."

If DeFeo's predictions are accurate, the flowers are expected to peak in the middle of the festival, which will run between March 27 and April 11.

The festival offers three jam-packed weekends of events, including Japanese-themed art exhibits, bike rides around the Tidal Basin, fireworks and a parade along Constitution Avenue.

Susan Norton, board chairwoman of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, said the celebration, now in its 98th year, does not just hold citywide and regional importance but generates national pride.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty noted that the blooming of the trees "is something to look forward to as we get away from the snow" of January and February. He said Washington was a fantastic place to visit on a normal day, but was "extra special" when the trees are in bloom.

The Newseum's newest exhibit, "Elvis! His Groundbreaking, Hip-Shaking, Newsmaking Story," opens March 19, just two weeks before the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

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