Great Escapes: Spring Travel

Festival ready for cherry blossom headliners

Geet Jeswani, Special to CNNUpdated 15th June 2017
Washington (CNN) — There should be plenty of pent-up anticipation among cherry blossom fans in Washington this spring.
Peak blooms are expected at the tail end of the three-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival, which kicks off Friday and runs through April 12. The fluttering pink and white blossoms are expected to hit their peak between April 11 and April 14.
Here are five things to know about the eagerly awaited D.C. blossoms:

The city's first cherry trees were destroyed

In 1910, 2,000 cherry trees arrived in Washington, thanks to a gift from the city of Tokyo and the advocacy of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, one of the first female board members of the National Geographic Society. These trees, however, were riddled with disease and were destroyed.
Two years later, first lady Helen Herron Taft planted one of the first of more than 3,000 replacement trees sent from Japan.

The festival was launched more than 20 years later

It wasn't until 1935 that civic groups and the D.C. government came together to hold the first "Cherry Blossom Festival." That first official festival came after smaller commemorations including a three-day celebration in 1934 and a 1927 re-enactment of the original planting of the trees by a group of Washington school children.

It's not all about cherry trees

That's right, there's a Blossom Kite Festival right in the middle of the cherry blossom festivities on March 28th. The festival consists of a hot tricks showdown, learning how to make and fly kites, and there's even a kite doctor on site to repair broken kites.

Two types of trees dominate

In the 1912 gift of trees to Washington, there were 12 different varieties. Today, two varieties are dominant -- Yoshino and Kwanzan. Kwanzan trees are usually found in the East Potomac Park area and produce pink blossoms. The Yoshino, which produce white blossoms, are closer to the northern part of the Tidal Basin near the Washington Monument.

Descendants of the original trees live in Japan

In 2011, about 120 trees propagated from D.C.'s surviving 1912 trees were sent back to Japan to preserve the genetic lineage of the symbolic trees. Over the years, cuttings from the original trees have also been returned to Japan for horticultural projects.
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