Children perched on their parents’ shoulders to squeal at the massive helium balloons. Grown-ups crowded the museum steps and elevated flower beds along Constitution Avenue for a better view of the elaborate floats.
And everyone got to revel in the abundant sunshine that accompanied the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade that rolled through downtown on Saturday morning.
Two little girls dressed entirely in pink danced wildly on the curb as the Ballou High School marching band danced past. There were shouts and whistles when the District’s veteran congressional delegate, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), strutted down the middle of the street to the band’s rhythmic drumming.
Lori Rosia, a vendor selling blossom-themed T-shirts, bags and pins, said that the crowd seemed on par with past turnouts but that the day was much better.
“This is the nicest weather we’ve had in awhile” she said.
Tracy Maningas and her 6-year-old daughter, Madelyn, from Southern Maryland, embraced the spirit of the day in matching headbands with pink flower antennae.
Maningas said they had come to the festival only once before — when Madelyn was 4.
“She’s enjoying it today,” Maningas said. “And this is the perfect day for it. Two years ago, it was really cold.”
Madelyn’s favorite part so far?
“The cheerleaders!” Madelyn said. Then, after a thoughtful pause: “And Strawberry Shortcake,” one of the balloons.
Standing in another raised flower bed half a block away, 7-year-old Besem Piper, wearing a cherry-print skirt, watched as a horse-drawn carriage draped in white flowers was followed by the Tamagawa University Taiko Drumming and Dance Troupe. She clapped for the drummers and the kimono-clad women twirling in the street.
It was Besem’s first time attending the parade, said her father, Ben Piper, who lives in Centreville. It was his first time, too. “I grew up in D.C., but I don’t ever remember coming as a kid,” he said.
Piper said he and Besem planned to take advantage of the weather and visit the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin after the parade was over.
Regina Pudich, 60, was among the many people who had sought an elevated vantage point to snap pictures.
Pudich, a native of Germany who moved to Fairfax County five years ago when her husband landed a job with the government, said it was her first time at the festival.
As she aimed her camera down Constitution Avenue, a group of 1960s-style dancers made their way down the street, hand-jiving to “At the Hop.”
“I’ve been taking many pictures,” Pudich said. “And I love the music. The music is very nice.”
As the cool morning warmed toward midday, sidewalks along the parade route were flooded by visitors and tourists from other states and countries — a diverse hum of dialects and languages mingling with the drumbeats and music of passing performers.
And then there were the true locals. As a young couple on a morning run came within sight of the crowd and glimpsed the feathered hats of a passing marching band, the woman’s eyes widened.
“What . . .” she began, and then answered herself: “Oh yeah! The parade.”