The blooms are back in Washington, and this year they should be right on time.
The District’s famous cherry blossoms are expected to be at peak bloom from April 3 through April 6, the National Park Service said Wednesday.
The announcement was an event in and of itself, as acting Park Service superintendent Jeffrey Reinbold plucked the dates from a light pink envelope handed to him by a pink-haired woman on stilts, wearing a pink parasol tutu and cherry blossoms cascading down her legs, as a drumroll played.
“The staff of the National Mall and Memorial Parks takes great pride in caring for the stars of this festival, those 3,800 trees,” Reinbold said. “The trees are both natural and cultural treasures of our city and of our nation, rooted in history and tradition.”
Attendees sipped strawberry mimosas and complimented each other’s pink attire — ties, pants, scarves and blouses. The spectacle of the annual news conference in which National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers release details of the year’s event is the unofficial kickoff of cherry blossom fever.
“Woo, I’m jazzed up,” festival president Diana Mayhew said to laughs from the crowd.
This year’s festival will run from March 20 to April 14. It will include old favorites — the parade, kite festival and fireworks show — as well as additions, including a cherry blossom-themed night with D.C. United and a Sailor Moon musical from Japan at the Warner Theatre.
Gregory O’Dell, chief executive of Events DC, the District’s convention and sports authority, said 1.5 million people are expected to visit the city during the festival’s four-week run, pouring about $100 million into the economy.
“Just to put it in perspective: We may have a million people come to our convention center in a year’s time, but we have a million and a half people coming in four weeks,” O’Dell said.
Festival events will take place in all eight of the District’s wards, including a picnic at Oxon Run Park in Ward 8, where the city’s second-largest grove of cherry trees resides, D.C. acting secretary of state Kimberly Bassett said. Bringing more tourism to areas east of the Anacostia River is among the city’s priorities for this year’s festival, she said.
Pop singer Meghan Trainor will headline the Blossom Bash, a concert event April 5 at the Anthem that premiered along the Southwest Waterfront during last year’s festival. Other events also were brought back this year because of their popularity, including a made-for-Instagram flower crown workshop at the Watergate Hotel, a pop-up cherry blossom-themed bar in Shaw from the Drink Company and pet-friendly events like Paws and Petals, a happy hour at Milk Bar in the Logan Circle neighborhood for dogs and their humans.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, considered the world’s largest U.S.-Japanese celebration, celebrates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the District from Tokyo.
“The trees have brought our two countries closer together as a lasting symbol of Japan-U.S. friendship,” said Takehiro Shimada, minister of communications and cultural affairs for the Embassy of Japan.
Today, the District is home to about 3,800 trees, officials said.
Each tree has a life span of about 40 to 50 years, Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said, which means the agency is constantly caring for and replacing trees — at a rate of about 90 replacements per year.
“These cherry blossoms should not be taken for granted,” Mayhew said, announcing an endowment fund created to aid the Park Service in caring for and replacing the trees.
Peak bloom occurs when 70 percent of the blossoms along the Tidal Basin are open. Last year, this happened on April 5. The two years prior, peak bloom was on March 25, according to Park Service records.
The Park Service said Tuesday the blossoms had reached the first stage in their bloom cycle as green buds had emerged. If temperatures continue to warm with the arrival of spring, Litterst said, the flowers should arrive right on time.
Once the flowers open, they could remain on trees for up to 10 days if wind and rain are sparse and temperatures remain mild, officials said.
Since records began in 1921, the average peak bloom date has advanced about five days earlier as March temperatures have warmed, according to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. The 30-year average date of peak bloom is March 31, but the average peak bloom date from 1921 to 1950 was April 4.