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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 04/08/2011

Cherry Blossom Parade would go on despite shutdown, organizers say

Organizers of the National Cherry Blossom festival said Friday morning that the annual parade would go ahead even if there is a federal government shutdown .

The parade along Constitution Avenue is scheduled for Saturday, and officials had said a shutdown would probably cause its cancellation.

“The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will go on regardless of a potential government shutdown,” festival spokeswoman Danielle Piacente said in an e-mail. “If there is a government shutdown, the parade route will be altered.”

More than 100,000 people attend the parade every year, and thousands participate, festival officials have said.

The parade’s route covers a few blocks of Constitution Avenue that are controlled by the National Park Service, which would not be able to honor its parade permits if there was a shutdown, festival organizers said earlier this week. But most of the route is along a stretch of Constitution Avenue that is monitored by D.C. police.

Piacente said the parade would still be held, “thanks to the exceptional support of the Metropolitan Police Department.”

The parade would likely stop short of the park service’s blocks, ending at 14th Street NW, instead of 17th Street. Bleachers already set up the blocks monitored by the park service would stand empty.

If there is no government shutdown, however, the parade will revert to its original route.

“Fantastic!” Eric Willoughby, the director of the marching band from Woodland High School, in Cartersville, Ga., said Friday when told the parade was on.

“I know my kids will be excited,” he said. “They’ve kind of been on pins and needles.”

The 150 members of the band and their chaperones traveled to Washington from Cartersville, outside Atlanta, on Wednesday. The band is among more than a dozen bands from around the country scheduled to march. But the group became worried Thursday when it learned that a shutdown could stop the parade.

Now, Willoughby said, his students “will be ecstatic.”

He said they plan to play an arrangement of “America the Beautiful” in the parade.

The parade “absolutely will happen,” said festival president Diana Mayhew. “We didn’t want to disappoint the people who attend the parade and participate in the parade.” The Japanese street festival, Sakura Matsuri, at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, also will go on as scheduled, she said.

Mayhew said alternate “dispersal areas” will be selected, off of National Park Service property. “It’s a lot of logistics,” she said, “but it will work.”

The parade starts at 10 a.m and runs until noon. Usually it goes from 7th to 17th streets on Constitution Avenue. Mayhew said alternate arrangements will be made for people who have tickets to the bleachers along the final few blocks of the route. She praised the District government and the police department for helping to save the parade.

“I’m just so proud of the people that have the dedication and determination to not let this fold,” she said.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 04/08/2011

 
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