With yet another winter storm probably headed toward the region and some snow and ice still on the ground, the National Park Service gave area residents a glimpse of spring Tuesday, announcing that the peak bloom time for Washington’s famed cherry blossom trees is expected to be between April 11 and April 14.
At a news conference at the Newseum, Karen Cucurullo, acting superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, told a crowd still carrying winter coats and scarves that the trees should reach peak bloom at that time.
“This is the day we wait for. Washington is ready to celebrate spring,” said Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Cucurullo said National Park Service crews in charge of monitoring the trees will continue to do so in coming weeks to provide updates on the status of the blooms.
The average peak bloom date, according to the National Park Service, is April 4. This year’s prediction falls slightly later than last year’s peak bloom of April 10.
“Certainly, we’ve had that really bad cold snap in the last three weeks, with the snow and ice,” said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Parks Service. “The more cold days you have, the longer it’s going to be before the blooms come out.”
Officials determine the peak as the days when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees’ blossoms have opened. Litterst said of the 3,700 cherry trees in Washington, 2,500 are Yoshinos.
This week, the cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin are bare, the branches and trunks poking out from ice and snow.
But those trees will soon attract nearly 2 million visitors, officials said.
Lauren Vaughan, secretary of the District, called the celebration the “official start of springtime.”
This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled for March 20 through April 12.
Events throughout the celebration include a waterfront fireworks festival and a Japanese street festival. Seven singing acts have been chosen to perform at the parade that headlines the three-week celebration on its second-to-last day.
Along with promoting international awareness and boosting the local economy through tourism, Vaughan said, the festival “unites local businesses, government and cultural institutions to celebrate the season.”
“But this is not only a national or international event, it is an event for the residents of D.C.,” she said. “The festival continues to plant cherry tree plantings in schools and parks around the city, unifying all eight wards.”
A new event this year, the Anacostia River Festival, will connect the celebration to communities east of the river. That festival will be a nature-focused event that will take place near the 11th Street Bridge Park.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival marks the anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the District in 1912.
Though some of the trees have been removed and others added over time, the resiliency of the original trees is celebrated each year. Cucurullo said about 100 of the original trees remain.
Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, wore a bright pink cherry blossom tie as he addressed the crowd Tuesday. He said he wanted to remind people that the festival is a symbol of the relationship between the two countries and a way to use events to teach people more about Japanese culture.
“After many long months of waiting . . . I can now bring the pink things out of my cherry blossom closet,” he said. “And when the ambassador wears the pink tie, you know spring can’t be far behind.”