- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The National Cherry Blossom Festival opened at the Kennedy Center last night with the naming of the festival queen and her court and welcoming remarks by Japanese and American dignitaries.
"This is Washington's signature event," festival spokeswoman Donna Sneyd said. "In essence, it almost opens the springtime tourism season in Washington, D.C."
The blossoms along with the festival's cultural and community events annually attract more than 700,000 visitors.
The two-week festival is timed to coincide with the blooming of more than 3,000 cherry trees dotting the landscape around major monuments. This year, forecasters are expecting the trees to be in full bloom in early April.
It looks like the famed cherry blossoms will make an earlier appearance than expected.
National Park Service horticulturist Robert DeFeo first predicted the cherry blossoms would be at peak between April 1 and 5.
But warm weather has pushed up that date. Mr. DeFeo now says the blossoms will be at their best between March 30 and April 1.
Mr. DeFeo says cherry-blossom fans shouldn't focus on a particular date, but instead realize that once the trees bloom the spectacular scene typically lasts 10 to 14 days.
Festival organizers say the slight adjustment is fine with them. The peak bloom still falls within the festival dates. The annual celebration runs through April 8.
This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival the 90th celebration marking the friendship between the United States and Japan is expected to be the biggest yet.
"This year's festival represents an unprecedented level of cooperation," said Ms. Sneyd. "[It] is going to be bigger and better. We are proceeding with a larger festival than what we've had in the past."
While the official opening ceremony was last night, the first event was Saturday when professional and amateur kite makers competed in the 36th Smithsonian Kite Festival near the Washington Monument.
Also Saturday, the Freedom Schooner Amistad sailed up the Potomac River and docked in Southeast. The ship is a re-creation of a Spanish slave ship that was taken over by mutiny in 1839. The Africans, arrested in American waters, were freed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841 after a two-year legal battle over the rights of free blacks to defend their freedom.
"The mission is that of reconciliation, unity and tolerance," said Ms. Sneyd. "It will convey that through tours, exhibits and day sails."
Continuing daily at the Tidal Basin 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. All performances are free.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees by Tokyo to the people of the District in 1912, 90 cherry trees will be planted at D.C. public schools on different days of the festival.
The first tree will be planted at 10 a.m. Thursday at Barnard Elementary School, 430 Decatur St. NW.
The parade will take place at 9:30 a.m. April 6, making its way down Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets NW.
After the parade will be Sakura Matsuri, a Japanese street festival of arts and culture, on 12th Street NWbetween Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues. All events are free, but there is a charge for food.


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