Diana Mayhew, executive director of the 93rd Cherry Blossom Festival, was online Friday, April 1, at 1:30 p.m. to talk about the two-week celebration (runs from Saturday, March 26, through Sunday, April 10) which includes performances, public events, arts and crafts and culminates in the parade on Saturday, April 9. (The parade is one of the largest annual events in Washington, drawing nearly 100,000 spectators each year.)
A transcript follows.
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Diana Mayhew: Good afternoon. My name is Diana Mayhew, Executive Director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held in Washington, DC from March 26 - April 10, 2005. I look forward to answering your questions.
College Park, Md.:
What time should we plan on arriving at the parade route -- I want my 5-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece to have a good view.
Diana Mayhew: Anywhere on the Parade route is fine (on Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW). If you show up at 9AM, which is an hour prior to the prior step off, I am sure you will find a great spot right on the curb.
Are there celebrations or festivals in Japan that are held during the same time as our celebrations?
Diana Mayhew: Yes, starting in March and continuing for at least a few months as the blossooms bloom in each Prefecture from South to North.
What's the best time in the early morning to head to the Tidal Basin? I hear that even then it's crowded. Thanks.
Diana Mayhew: The early morning is a great time to view the blossoms. It is usually popular when the blossoms are blooming but not really crowded. It is a very pleasant time...starting as early as the sun rises, especially during the week days.
New York, N.Y.:
How is the current status of the cherry blossoms? On NPS Web site, it is still in stage 2 of the 5 stages before peak bloom.
Can we see the blooming, even just a little, this weekend? Thanks!
Diana Mayhew: The bloom watch is pretty accurate on the NPS website. Right now the blossoms are starting to bloom slightly with one or two more warm days they will be beautiful. I am sure by Sunday there will be something to see! The farther in the week we go, next week, the more blossoms will be blooming.
Silver Spring, Md.:
Are cherry blossoms currently in bloom anywhere else in the Washington area? What are the other locations for cherry blossom viewing aside from the Tidal Basin/Mall area?
Diana Mayhew: There are cherry trees all throughout the city...Hains Point (usually bloom a week or two later than those at the Tidal Basin); down in Southwest, throughout DC neighborhoods
but the most spectacular site, of course, is the mass number of trees on the Tidal Basin as well as by the Washington Monument.
Beverly Farms, Mass.:
Dear Diana --
With this weekend's weather predictions for heavy rains/thunderstorms up and down the east coast, what effect, if any, do you think that will have on the cherry blossoms, e.g., delayed blossoming or short-lived peak, as we are planning a visit to D.C. for viewing the cherry blossoms on Saturday and Sunday.
Given the bad weather forecast, if we were to postpone our plans for D.C. until the weekend of April 16-17, what do you think the likelihood is that the cherry blossoms will still be blossoming at that time?
Diana Mayhew: I do not think that the rainstorms will affect the Cherry Blossoms at all at this point. If the blossoms were bloomed, the hard driving rain and the wind might blow some off the trees, but that is not the case right now. I cannot predict about the blossoms still being on the trees on April 16-17...they are starting to bloom now and should be out in the next few days...Perhaps Sunday would be a good day if it stays warm.
I am coming to D.C. to see the flowers tomorrow -- but the weather report says it is going to be heavy rain tomorrow -- will I still be able to see some? will it still be a good experience?
Please advise. Thanks.
Diana Mayhew: The blossoms are quite out yet...Sunday will be better but probably even better in 2-3 days.
Dunn Loring, Va.:
My 85-year-old mom and dad are coming to D.C. to visit me and see the cherry blossoms. They can't walk very far. I was toying with the idea of taking them to a parking area near the Pool around 6 a.m. and letting them see the blossoms at dawn and until they get tired. Will those parking areas be full by 6 a.m., Wednesday or Thursday? Alternate suggestion welcome. Is the Arboretum a good destination for more blossoms, or is it crowded too?
Diana Mayhew: The parking areas should not be filled so early in the morning. Driving past the the Washington Monument when the trees are in bloom is good viewing by car as well as the drive around the Tidal Basin.
Is Haines Point open for the fireworks viewing? Where else would be considered prime viewing locations?
Diana Mayhew: Haines Point will be a great viewing area. Also at the Southwest promenade.
What's YOUR favorite event of the festival?
Diana Mayhew: That is a hard question to answer. I enjoy many of the events...they are all so different. I enjoy watching the cultural performances and demonstrations that take place at several of the events and at the performance stage at the Jefferson Memorial and at the events such as the Parade, Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, neighborhood events, etc. There is truly something for everyone at this two week festival. The sporting events are alot of fun as well!
Is it possible to watch the parade for free, or must participants purchase the $15 grandstand tickets?
Diana Mayhew: Viewing of the Parade on the street is FREE. The tickets for the grandstand bleachers cost $15.00 but we are nearly sold out of the allotted seats that we have. You can bring your own chair and sit near the curbside if you can get to the front (come early).
Can you tell me the best place to view the fireworks tomorrow, near a metro, but away from the crowds?
Diana Mayhew: Take Metro to L'Enfant Plaza or the Waterfront Stops...if you stay close to those Metros you can still see the fireworks. The Waterfront Stop is the closest. Once you see the first one shot up you can get an idea of how to position yourself so trees, buildings, etc. won't block your view.
What is the best Metro stop to get off at to view the parade on April 9? Will any of the Metro stations be closed on that day?
Diana Mayhew: The best Metro stop to use for the Parade is Archives or Federal Triangle. At this time, Metro has not indicated that any of the Metro stations will be closed on that day. That would be rare on a busy day such as that.
New York, N.Y.:
Due to the heavy rain this Saturday, are the fireworks going to be on schedule? And how about the kite fesitval? Thanks.
Diana Mayhew: At this time, the Fireworks are still scheduled to go off. We will not make that call until tomorrow, late afternoon. There is a chance that the Smithsonian will be making a decision today if there is to be a change with the Kite Festival. If there are any changes due to weather, you will be able to get that information right on our festival Home Page: National Cherry Blossom Festival or by calling our hotline (202) 547-1500
Is there a back-up date for the Kite Festival if it rains tomorrow and Sunday? Thanks!
Diana Mayhew: As of now, the back up date for the Kite Festival is Sunday, April 3 but that change has not been determined as of yet.
Diana Mayhew: Thank you for all your questions. We hope that you will take the time to come to the festival to enjoy all the events and to view the beautiful cherry trees. The festival will continue until April 10...please visit our website for a detailed schedule of events.