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Blossoms Are About to Take Over

The 93rd Annual National Cherry Blossom Festival will kick off two weeks of events with opening ceremonies held March 26 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Marking the opening of the festival will be a traditional sake barrel breaking, provided by Gekkeikan Sake. Invited guests and dignitaries include Ambassador Ryozo Kato of Japan, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and National Cherry Blossom Festival President G. Bradley Elmore. Entertainment will be provided by Georgetown University’s concert and chamber choirs, the Children’s Chorus of Washington, the Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe, kabuki by master dancer Hanayagi Shifu, and music by master shamisen player Tokiwazu.

Guests may come early to see the kimono exhibit that will be featured at the Mandarin Oriental throughout the festival, as well as participate in a silent auction to benefit National Cherry Blossom Festival programs. Tickets are free to the public but are required to attend the event. They are available by calling (202) 661-7584.

Other key events during the festival include the 44th Annual Sakura Matsuri, a Japanese street festival that takes place April 9.

It features various aspects of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture through performing arts, hands-on arts and crafts, Japanese cuisine, and a Japanese marketplace.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is also being held April 9 and features Mickey Mouse as this year’s Grand Marshal, in honor of his 75th anniversary.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Cherry Blossom Festival without cherry blossoms. And this year the blossoms should arrive just in time.

Robert DeFeo, chief horticulturist of the National Park Service, said that based on the stage of the trees at this point, peak blooming will occur April 4-9, coinciding with the end of this year’s festival. Peak blooming, as described by DeFeo, is when 70 percent of the blossoms are open.

Diana Mayhew, executive director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, had no worries that the extended stay of the cold weather would delay the blossoms.

She said there has been only one year throughout the longevity of the festival in which the blossoms were not at peak during the festivities.

“Nine out of ten times there are blossoms during the festival,” she said. “The big surprise is, is it going to be at the beginning or at the end, will it be for the parade or the opening? Mother Nature, it’s all up to her.”

Many other events are planned throughout the festival, which ends April 10. For more information, visit

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