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Thousands flock to D.C. for Cherry Blossom Parade

  • Story Highlights
  • "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek serves as parade's grand marshal
  • Cherry blossom trees were a gift to U.S. government from Japan in 1912
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival marks the arrival of spring
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By Alison Harding
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of visitors lined Constitution Avenue in Washington on Saturday morning for the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

The annual two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 12.

The annual two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 12.

"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek served as the parade's grand marshal, waving to crowds from the back of a convertible. "American Idol" finalist Kimberly Locke, the cast of the musical "Chicago" and D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton were among the parade's stars.

The cherry blossom trees were a gift of friendship to the U.S. government from Japan in 1912, according to the National Park Service. Their blooming has come to represent the definitive beginning of springtime in the nation's capital.

The parade is part of the annual two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival, which is timed around the projected peak bloom period of the famous trees. This year, the trees reached their peak bloom this week, according to the park service.

Many high school groups and marching bands also participated in the parade.

Near the National Mall, large crowds mingled under the branches of the blossoming trees that line the Tidal Basin. On an unusually blustery day, the delicate pink and white blossoms blew from their branches like snowflakes.

"It's like being in a fairy tale," said Maria Podonyi, a visiting professor from Hungary. Podonyi brought her parents, who are visiting the United States from Hungary, to the festival.

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"They haven't seen anything like this before," she said. "It's wonderful.

The festival is scheduled to run through April 12.

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