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Cherry Blossom Officials Spent Lots of Time Prepping   

By Nicole Marie Richardson
Maryland Newsline
Friday, March 22, 2002

So what does it take to put together the National Cherry Blossom Festival, one of Washington, D.C.'s largest and most well-attended events? 

For Diana Mayhew, executive director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival organization, it meant a year of planning, and 18-hour days for more than a month.

Mayhew serves as liaison between the umbrella organization, National Cherry Blossom Festival Inc., and seven official affiliated organizations, including the National Park Service Free Concerts, 12th Street Sakura Matsuri Festival and Festival of Origami Architecture.

The day after last year’s festival ended, planning for this year’s festival began, Mayhew said.

"Immediately after it's over, we analyze the previous year and figure out what can be done better," she said.

This year there will be more than 25 separate events, including the opening ceremony on March 24, daily cultural performances at the Tidal Basin, special tours and exhibits at The Smithsonian Institution, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade on April 6.

Each planning organization has its own budget and its own events. The combined budget for all the organizations equals a little more than $2 million, Mayhew said.

The 12th Street Sakura Matsuri, a daylong street festival held April 6 to celebrate the culture of Japan, has a budget of about $80,000, said Kurt Kumagai, marketing director of the organization. 

With that money, organizers are able to attract performing arts groups from the United States and Japan, artisans and workshops introducing traditional and contemporary arts, martial arts demonstrations, traditional Japanese food venders, a Ginza shopping arcade, a children's corner with storytelling, and origami and calligraphy experts. 

Authentic Japanese and Japanese-American venders who can help educate others about Japanese culture and heritage are hard to come by, Kumagai said. 

In many cases, Kumagai said, the organization has had to look to New York and Japan for venders. More than 47 venders--including the Japanese Dolls & Craft School--will occupy just 50 feet of space on 12th Street between Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues, Kumagai said. 

Volunteers play a large part in the execution of the festival. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Inc. has secured more than 120 volunteers to provide information to guests and to set up and supervise events. 

Other participating organizations have their own volunteers. 

Fire regulations and security mandates had to met. Permits had to be obtained for several of the outdoor events, often from more than one government agency.

For example, the 12th Street Sakura Matsuri had to get a permit from the National Park Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and even the United States Secret Service. 

On top of all these worries, all festival officials are also hoping that the cherry blossoms will bloom on time.

The blooming of the 3,000 cherry blossom trees surrounding the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin is expected to coincide this year with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, according to the National Park Service Web site.

The trees will explode with pink and white petals between March 28 and April 7, officials predict. 

This year's festival marks the 90th celebration of the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees by the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, D.C. 

Copyright © 2002 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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