There are two faces to almost every national event celebrated in Washington, DC. One appeals to tourists. The other is the attraction for those who live in or near the nation’s capital. A prime example is the 2014 National Cherry Blossom Parade.
Festival at a Glance
The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicked off on March 20 and ends with the parade on Saturday, April 12, according to The Washington Post. The days in between are full of a variety of activities centered on the cherry blossom theme.
Among family-friendly activities for both tourists and locals are indoor and outdoor events at the National Building Museum and a kite-flying festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument. One event bound to be popular if the weather cooperates is the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival on the Washington Channel.
The Cherry Blossom 10-mile run and 5K walk/run event, which attracted more than 17,000 in 2013, is bound to be a hit with adults. However, the focus of this annual festival has always been the National Cherry Blossom Parade.
Viewing the Parade
For those who want to take in the parade in person, it has been scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to noon. It snakes along Constitution Avenue, more or less the main drag in DC, from 7th to 17th Streets NW.
If the objective is to enjoy the festivities while being thrifty, it’s possible to watch the parade for free between 9th and 15th Streets on Constitution Avenue. Grandstand seats are available for $20 each. Either way, it’s essential to get there early via Metro. Forget driving.
Within an hour’s drive of Washington, DC are dozens of Virginia and Maryland suburbs. For most suburbanites, catching the parade on the tube is usually sufficient after being there in person once or twice. For many DC residents, however, the event is within walking distance.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a mixed blessing to those of us who live near the nation’s capital. It’s a rite of passage that says spring is finally here, despite what the calendar proclaims. After a particularly harsh winter, we’re especially anticipating word of pink blossoms this year.
On the other hand, it’s a local nightmare when it comes to the influx of tourists and snarled vehicle and pedestrian traffic caused by efforts to see the blossoms. Weekday commutes downtown seem to take forever. Many of us content ourselves to stay at home during the festival and catch the blossoms the week after everyone else has gone home.
How It Started
The National Cherry Blossom Parade is the final event each year that commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo to the city in 1912, the National Cherry Blossom Festival site says. The purpose of the annual celebration is to honor the enduring relationship between Japan and the United States.
First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first two trees on the bank of the Tidal Basin. To reciprocate, Americans sent flowering dogwood trees to the Japanese people in 1915. Over the years, there have been several additional plantings of cherry trees in the nation’s capital. The first annual festival took place in 1927.
More than 1.5 million people — many who are tourists and some who are locals in love with the spring blossoms — take part in the festival and cap it off with the National Cherry Blossom Parade every year.