Five friends from Philadelphia shivered inside the Jefferson Memorial yesterday afternoon. Above them the third president's statue stared intently across the Tidal Basin. But even from his pedestal, no cherry blossoms were visible.
"That's why we came down," said Dolores Kuprunas, lamenting the lack of pastel petals during the designated cherry blossom week. "We called our congressman's office to see if the trees would be out, and they said, 'Oh sure! Come on down!'
"You don't know what we had to go through to get the same day off," said Kuprunas, explaining that all five women work in the Sears Roebuck store in the Neshaminy Mall outside Philadelphia.
Ruth Gale, cheeks rosy from a stiff wind, said that she may never again vote for Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer (D-Pa.), "unless he can promise the cherry blossoms and warmer weather."
"There's really nothing we can do" to make the flowers coincide with the blossom-inspired events, said Dave Cutler of the Greater Washington Cherry Blossom Festival Committee. "We try to build everything around the events and leave the weather to its own devices."
The festival's sponsors have used the pink and white flowers to weave a week that includes an art show, a fashion show, a tennis match, paddle boat races, and assorted concerts and tributes to Japan, which donated the trees in 1912. The festival ends on Saturday with the Cherry Blossom Parade, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Constitution Avenue from Seventh Street to 17th Street NW.
Three events are new for 1986, according to Cutler: a week-long exhibition at 501 13th St. NW of works by local artists, including two very different interpretations of cherry blossoms; a tennis match between international stars Monday, in which Boris Becker beat Guillermo Vilas in an exhibition to benefit the Special Olympics, and a performance yesterday by the Hot Jazz Orchestra playing jazz and big band tunes at the foot of the Washington Monument.
Tomorrow, a paddle wheel riverboat is to float from Alexandria to Washington and back to Alexandria, where an actor portraying George Washington will meet 52 cherry blossom princesses from the states and territories. This afternoon at 2, the princesses will lead paddle boat races in the Tidal Basin.
At the Grand Ball tomorrow night, one of the princesses will be chosen as the 1986 cherry blossom queen. "It's a random selection, sort of like the 'Wheel of Fortune,' " Cutler said. "It's a very dramatic event."
Washington's entry is 19-year-old Hope Helene Handy of Southeast, a sophomore at American University studying political science and international studies. "It feels wonderful" to be the princess, she said.
Tourists seemed to be keeping happy during the festival, despite the dearth of blooms.
"We've been here quite a few times and never seen them," said Nora Kelly of Bucks County, Pa., "but the tulips made up for them."
Jeff Kilpatrick of Salt Lake City stood with his camera, looking over the choppy water of the Tidal Basin. Too late to photograph the blossoms, he was just in time to snap another Washington classic.
"I saw the president today," he said, explaining that as he left The Shops at National Place, President Reagan left the nearby National Press Club Building. "I think I got some pictures."