Springtime in Washington D.C.
By Sarah Harmon
EW Emma’s Writings
Washington D.C.- For Washingtonians, it isn’t the robin’s arrival that heralds the spring. In the District of Columbia, it’s all about the cherry blossoms, and, of course, the hoards of accompanying tourists. The infamous trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 and visitors celebrate them annually as a gesture of friendship between the two countries. The week or so that they are in full bloom is undoubtedly the most beautiful week of the year in the nation’s capital. They surround the Tidal Basin, framing the Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr, and Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorials against an azure blue sky.
Over the years, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has expanded to include far more than just a leisurely stroll through the trees. “Let’s go fly a kite” takes on a whole new meaning on the day of the National Kite Festival, a day done in cooperation with the Cherry Blossom Festival. Kites of every size, color, and shape imaginable fill the National Mall, stretching over a mile from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial. Free fitness classes, such as yoga, in front of the Washington Monument are offered on Saturdays and often include several hundred participants. Paddle boats are also available to get a different perspective on the trees and popular memorials while getting a little exercise at the same time.
Cherry Blossom Princesses are selected from each state to come to Washington to represent their homes and have a chance at becoming the randomly selected Cherry Blossom Queen. The Queen makes a trip to Japan later in the year as a special ambassador for the United States. The 2011 Cherry Blossom Queen arrived in Tokyo not long after the recent tsunami devastated the country. She felt extremely honored to have that opportunity and was very touched by the warm welcome she received despite the incredible tragedy the Japanese had experienced. Another former Cherry Blossom Princess is the wife of the Librarian of Congress. She still looks back fondly at her tenure as a Princess even though decades have passed since then.
The last weekend of the three-week festival includes a fabulous parade with elaborate floats, celebrity entertainers, and giant helium balloons. Afterward, spectators can join in a day long celebration of Japanese culture. As if that weren’t enough, the capstone of the evening is a spectacular fireworks display over the Tidal Basin. For anyone lucky enough to experience it, it’s no wonder the National Cherry Blossom Festival is called “The Nation’s Greatest Springtime Celebration!”
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