Cherry trees nearing full bloom hung heavy on Monday, drawing a steady stream of admirers to the paths around the Tidal Basin on the last official day of winter.
"It's gorgeous, absolutely perfect," said Coni Giannini of Annapolis, who was walking with her husband, Bob, as workers set up tents and tables for the upcoming National Cherry Blossom Festival.
"We took today off. We figured it would be less crowded," Mrs. Giannini said.
"A lot of times we get here and the winds have taken them away," Mr. Giannini said of the blossoms.
The trees normally bloom between March and April, though extreme hot or cold temperatures have caused blooms as early as March 15 and as late as April 18.
This year's peak bloom date will fall sometime between Tuesday — the first day of spring — and Friday, Park Service officials said. The start date of the Cherry Blossom Festival is Tuesday.
"We're prepared for what Mother Nature gives us," Park Service spokesman Bill Line said.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japan. The celebration includes a parade and kite festival. Many D.C. restaurants and museums have incorporated Japanese cultural heritage into their menus and exhibitions.
Amid the tourists snapping photographs, Derwood residents Carolyn Coleman and her mother, Irene, sat on a shady bench.
"We came to do just what I'm doing now," the elder Ms. Coleman said with a laugh.
The women said they decided to get outdoors knowing it was going to be a pretty morning.
"We decided this should be the real introduction to spring — and a celebration of life," the younger Ms. Coleman said.
Kate Hall, 64, a Raleigh, N.C., resident, said she has come to the District for work-related meetings but had never visited the Tidal Basin while the trees were in bloom.
"This sort of worked out," she said. "There's a variety of different colors. What a blessing."
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