The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a special time in Washington. And 2012 is even more eventful because it’s the 100-year anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C.
The five-week celebration will begin March 20, 2012 and go until April 27, which is much longer than the typical 16-day event.
With at least 1 million expected to attend, what can you expect? First of all, event planners launched a City in Bloom campaign where businesses and Washington residents will be showing their Cherry Blossom support with lights, blossom decals, oversized banners, and other fun decorations.
This year’s festival will also incorporate lots of interesting art and culture. The National Gallery of Art will exhibit “Colorful Realm of Living Beings,” a 30-scroll set of paintings that have never been seen outside of Japan. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will have two exhibits featuring the work of Hokusai and rare Buddhist paintings. The National Geographic Museum will have a special exhibit on the Samurai’s influence on Japanese history and culture. The S&R Foundation will have a Cherry Blossom Concert series with Japanese artists at the Kennedy Center.
The festival will also have its traditional events like the opening ceremony on March 25, 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The ceremony features a series of traditional and contemporary performances that will tell the story of how the Cherry Blossom trees were given to Washington in 1912. As of Feb. 3, 2012, all available tickets had been reserved. But planners say some tickets may be returned and become available again. Call 877-44-BLOOM for more info.
Family Days will take place March 24-25, 2012 from 10 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturday and 11 AM to 3:30 PM on Sunday at the National Building Museum. The free event features hands-on activities, interactive art demos, and indoor and outdoor performances.
The Blossom Kite Festival will be held March 31, 2012 on the Washington Monument grounds at Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW. The free event includes competitions and demos, including the Hot Tricks Showdown and the Rokkaku Battle. The public is also invited to bring their own kites or children can make one at an activity station. The festival will be held April 1, 2012 if it rans on March 31.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will take place April 14, 2012 from 10 AM to noon, rain or shine. The parade runs along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW. It includes lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and performers. Standing along the parade route from Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th Streets, NW, is free and open to the public. Arrive early to get the best views. Grandstand seats require tickets and are available on www.ticketmaster.com. The parade is also accpeting appliations for groups that want to be in the parade, including marching bands and performers. The deadline is Feb. 15, 2012, and applications can be submitted online.
The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is on April 14, 2012 from 11 AM to 6 PM at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Touted as the largest Japanese cultural festival in the United States, the event features food, arts, merchandise, and live traditional and J-Pop performances on four stages, including martial arts demos. The cost is $5 for people age 13 and older. Call 202-833-2210 or visit the website for more info.
You can also catch free cultural performances throughout the five weeks at the Jefferson Memorial stage and Sylvan Theater. Free live performances at Sylvan Theater feature music, dance, martial arts exhibitions, and marching bands. Shows are April 1-15, 2012 from noon to 5 PM Sunday through Thursday, and noon to 6 PM Friday and Saturday. The theater can be found on the grounds of the Washington Monument at Independence Avenue and Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW. Jazz at the Jefferson will run April 19-22, 2012 and feature jazz performances from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Shows begin at noon daily and are free.