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Centennial Cherry Blossom Festival offers myriad of activity

Every spring, since 1912, when the cherry blossom trees were given to Washington D.C. as a gift of friendship from Tokyo, they have bloomed along the Tidal Basin.

The 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival will bring many special activities to its home, Washington, D.C., and other places across the United States.

Here is a round-up of some of the best events, many of them free:

  • A kick-off “Pink Tie Party” will raise funds for the festival, a not-for-profit organization. This will be the evening of Tuesday, March 20, at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel, and be hosted by renowned chefs Jose Andres and Roy Yamaguchi; tickets are $200.
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony will take place March 25 at 5 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, with entertainment by Grammy-nominated performer Sara Bareilles, Japanese R&B recording artist MISIA, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves-Montgomery, the Washington Ballet and others.  The free event requires advanced ticketing; although all available tickets have been reserved, there could be returns.
  • Bike and Roll, a bicycle tour company, is partnering with DC Metro Food Tours to offer a three-hour “Blossom Bites” tour Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the festival. This will showcase special dishes at restaurants in the DuPont Circle, U Street and Logan Circle neighborhoods, and cost $79 per person.
  • The Freer and Sackler Galleries are offering a free series of exhibitions, through early summer, devoted to the great Japanese artist Hokusai, including exhibits of his screens, paintings and drawings, and a display of “36 Views of Mount Fuji,” his most acclaimed woodblock print series.
  • The National Gallery of Art will have a free, special exhibition, from March 30 to April 29, of a 30-scroll set of bird and flower paintings on silk, called “Colorful Realm of Living Beings,” by 18th century artist Ito Jakuchu. It is the first time all scrolls have been shown outside of Japan.
  • The U.S. National Arboretum, located in northeast Washington, contains over 1,600 cherry blossom trees that bloom from mid-March through mid-April and even in the fall. A free, self-guided tour of its grounds features over 20 types of flowering cherries, and can be driven, biked or walked. There will also be special talks on the trees and their history, plus a tour, April 14, with a $15 fee, and a free centennial exhibit at the arboretum’s National Bonsai & Penjing Museum from April 6 to 22.
  • Washington’s Southwest Waterfront will hold a free, eight-hour long festival on April 7 with entertainment — water-related, cultural and kids’ activities — and centennial fireworks.
  • The National Conference of State Societies, a nonprofit group in the capital, will crown the 2012 United States Cherry Blossom Queen at its black-tie Grand Ball at the Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel on April 13; tickets are $150. The queen will wear the Mikimoto Crown, made of over 1,500 pearls set in a 14-karat gold frame and band of ermine.
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade — featuring floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands and other performers — will take place along Constitution Avenue on April 14 from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Standing along the route is free; there will also be grandstand seating, for $20.
  • The Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. will hold its annual Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, also on April 14, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and will include musical and martial arts performances, arts and cultural activities, food vendors and beer gardens. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children age 12 and under.
  • The Cherry Blast Art + Music Dance Party will take place in a warehouse in Anacostia on April 21; the $10 admission fee includes one drink.
  • To commemorate the centennial, the Embassy of Japan and its consulates are helping to promote planting of cherry trees in over 35 cities across the United States. The Japan Society in New York is holding a six-week-long series of Sakura, or cherry blossom, programs through mid-April, while the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia and Japan Society of Boston are holding similar activities.

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