Washington DC--History National Cherry Blossom Festival Announcing Spring 2012
A Springtime Natural Show
After such a cold and snowy winter, one could only delight in the sight of cherry blossoms. They are right on time. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is running this year from March 16-25, 2012. This festival is a spectacular show of these trees in their full glory at the height of the season. It has spawned somewhat of a science of knowing just when the blooms will peak at 70% blooms and decline, depending on the wind, rain, and sunshine they get. Hearing about the festival on the news made me think of last year when my daughter and I went. Even though the marvelous beauty of the trees, the food, anticipation of fireworks, music and the other festivities there on the promenade were enough for us, I wanted to know why all these trees are there in the US capital in the first place. Why had it become such a custom to view them there and the site of an annual festival? Sure, the cherry blossoms do announce spring in an awesome, pretty and delicate way to DC residents and tourists who travel from far flung places to be there. But there is a history of the gracious trees that landmark the US capital each spring.
Finding the Roots of These Beautiful Trees
These lovely trees have their roots in social ties in the past. It was the initial idea of a lady named Mrs. Eliza Scidmore to plant cherry trees along the waterfront of the Potomac River in Washington, DC, but without success in 1885. She later tried to raise the money needed to buy cherry trees and then donate them to the city. Mrs. Scidmore sent a letter to Mrs. Helen Taft, the first lady in 1909, who was well aware of the beauty of the trees, having lived in Japan. She agreed and was promised the trees.
A Japanese chemist, Dr. Jokichi Takamine, was told this plan to have Japanese cherry trees, and asked if Mrs. Taft would like to have another 2000 trees for the project. The Japanese consul, Mr. Midzuno felt it was a good thing and suggested the trees be given to Washington in the name of Tokyo, Japan. Mrs. Taft accepted.
Unfortunately, the trees were infested with insects and disease when they arrived in January of 1910 and had to be destroyed. This sad news was met with a solution when Dr. Takamine donated money again for the trees and upped the number to over 3,000.
On March 26, 1912 the trees arrived, 12 different varieties. The next day, in a ceremony, two Yoshino cherry trees were planted by Mrs. Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscontess Chinda on the Tidal Basin near what is now Independence Ave. SW. They still stand there today, 100 years later! That makes this year a centennial celebration for these flowering beauties.
Then and Now
After some course of events, another gift of almost 4,000 trees was gifted to another president's wife, Lady Bird Johnson, in 1965 by the Japanese government.
The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935 and later became an annual event, which now runs for 2 weeks, and is one of the most pleasant reminders in Washington that spring has definitely sprung! What a wonderful time we had on a cooler than typical spring day in 2009 enjoying all that the National Cherry Blossom Festival presented.
This history is a synopsis of the interesting feature by www.nps.gov and dc.about.com gives the details about blooming season, etc. You can visit those sites for more detailed information, as well as the official website of the National Cherry Blossom Festival below. This digging was done just because I wanted to know more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and now you know too.
- Official Website of the National Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC
The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift to the city of Washington of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrate the continued close re
- Washington.org - Official Tourism Site of Washington, DC
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