- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival the 90th celebration marking the friendship between the United States and Japan opens this weekend, and it's expected to be the biggest yet.
"This year's festival represents an unprecedented level of cooperation," said Donna Sneyd, a festival spokeswoman. "This year's festival is going to be bigger and better. We are proceeding with a larger festival than what we've had in the past."
The official opening ceremony will be Sunday evening, but the first event will be tomorrow's 36th Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival near the Washington Monument, in which professional and amateur kite makers can take part in a competition.
Arriving tomorrow is a replica of the Freedom Schooner Amistad, the Spanish slave ship.
"The mission is that of reconciliation, unity and tolerance," Ms. Sneyd said. "It will convey that through tours, exhibits and day sails."
On Sunday, Japanese and American dignitaries will deliver opening and welcoming remarks on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the Japanese ambassador are two of the ceremonial event's featured speakers.
Also beginning Sunday at the Tidal Basin and continuing daily during the festival's two weeks will be cross-cultural performances at a stage set up at the Jefferson Memorial.
Performers include the Japanese Choral Society of Washington and the Washington Opera Studio. All performances are free.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees by the city of Tokyo to the people of the District in 1912, 90 cherry trees will be planted at various D.C. public schools on different days of the festival.
The first planting will occur at 10 a.m. Thursday at Barnard Elementary School, 430 Decatur St. NW.
The blossoms along with the festival's cultural, community and sporting events annually attract more than 700,000 visitors.
"This is Washington's signature event," Ms. Sneyd said. "In essence, it almost opens the springtime tourism season in Washington, D.C."
The chief horticulturist with the U.S. Park Service believes the peak blooming period will be between April 1 and April 5.
The Cherry Blossom Parade will take place at 9:30 a.m. on April 6, making its way down Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets NW.
"It's part of the living legacy of international friendship," Ms. Sneyd said. "It honors the good will between the people of Japan and the people of the United States."
Following the parade will be Sakura Matsuri, considered one of the largest Japanese street festivals of arts and culture. That will take place on 12th Street between Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues NW. All events are free, but there is a charge for food.
"It's an opportunity to visit Japan, if you will, without ever leaving Washington," Ms. Sneyd said.


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