WASHINGTON – The capital's cherry blossoms will be in bloom during next month's National Cherry Blossom Festival,and the usual crowds will come to see them,organizers of the annual festival said Tuesday.
Rob DeFeo,chief horticulturalist with the National Park Service,told festival sponsors and others at a press conference at the Newseum that the pink-and-white blossoms will reach their peak between April 3 and 9.
A local legend for his blossom predictions,DeFeo said he had not yet seen green in the cherry tree buds and noted that the American Elms are just starting to come into full bloom.
Despite a floundering national economy,organizers say ticket sales for the festival – which will fill Washington's streets with dancers,musical acts and crafts from March 28 to April 12 – have been normal.
“Washington,D.C.,in the spring has become synonymous with the cherry blossoms,” said Stephanie Scott,secretary of the District of Columbia. “The trees will continue to flower,and we appreciate the revenue that gives us.”
The National Cherry Blossom Festival – which draws about a million people each year and celebrates a Tokyo mayor's gift of cherry trees to the city in 1912 – is one of the District's biggest tourist events. The festival includes a parade,a Japanese street fair sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Washington,D.C.,a kite festival and performers from the United States and Japan.
An estimated 450,000 people travel to Washington during the annual festival,generating about $184 million in revenue from hotels,restaurants,shopping,transportation and entertainment,said Rebecca Pawlowski,director of communications for Destination D.C.
Hotel revenue in the District was down 3.3 percent in the last three months of 2008,according to a report issued in February by Washington's chief financial officer.
Victoria Isley,senior vice president for Destination D.C.,said the organization's latest forecasts indicate that visits to the city will be unchanged or will drop in the next year.
Diana Mayhew,president of the festival,reassured those at Tuesday's press conference that the usual crowds are expected.
“All indications continue to be positive,” Mayhew said. “This year will not be an exception.”
This year's festival will include some notable guests. First Lady Michelle Obama agreed to be honorary chairwoman,and Jeopardy host Alex Trebek will serve as grand marshal during the April 4 parade.