Cherry Blossom Festival Ready To Bloom

Mar 03, 2011

Cherry Blossom Festival President Diana Mayhew answered all of your questions about the upcoming festival, from firework shows and food to new festival fees.

Hi I'm Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. I'm here today to talk about the Festival, DC's and the nation's greatest springtime celebration! The National Park Service just announced the peak blooming prediction of the cherry blossoms: March 29 - April 3 - but of course the blooming period continues a few days before and after. We have 16 days of of GREAT free events and I'm excited to take your questions!

You said on local cable access cherry blossoms will be inside this year, where will that be? Good luck with the festival.

Thanks! Macy's Metro Center (12th & G) will actually have 30 live cherry blossom trees each week in their department store during the Festival. Cherry blossom related events, too.

How many people do you usually expect to the festival? Do you anticipate more this year?

We expect over one million people throughout the 16-days, that's generally what we're expecting this year as well.

I heard you guys were charging a fee this year.  What's that about?

I'm glad you brought that up, I'd like to clarify. The majority of our events are completely free and open to the public - nearly 400 events and performances in all. The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival has decided to charge a nominal $5 fee to help offset production costs while keeping entertainment at the highest possible level. Kids under 12 are free.  This is the only change to paid events this year - no worries - so many events are free - find them at www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org!

Will there be fireworks again this year? Where's the best place to view them from?

Yes! The Southwest Fireworks Festival at the Southwest Waterfront is on Saturday, April 2. The Fireworks Show starts at 8:30pm, but there is  a huge free festival before hand from 1-8:30pm - 3 stages of music, activities for kids, the food trucks will be out, etc. The best viewing is from the Southwest Waterfront (600 Water Street, SW) or East Potomac Park. 

Where can we find more details about the music and events that will be offered at the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival on April 2?

Right here! http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/2011/01/20/southwest-washington-waterfront-fireworks-festival/

Are there other areas to enjoy the cherry blossoms outside of the tidal basin

Yes, definitely. The National Arboretum has over 600 different species of cherry blossoms. http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/2011/01/20/beyond-the-tidal-basin-introducing-other-great-flowering-cherries/. Also Hains Point is a great, less crowded place to see the blossoms.

What's your favorite event/part of the festival this year?

Oh that's so hard to answer! I just love that we have something for everyone - all the family activities; so many eclectic performances, we keep adding nighttime events for different audiences. People get emotional about the Festival and it means so much to so many who travel across to national and world to be part of it! I hear countless stories about marriage proposals, memories of Festivals years ago - to know that people are creating lasting memories through the National Cherry Blossom Festival is so meaningful to me.

I live in California and would like to come to DC for the Cherry Blossom festival. JUST considering cherry blossom viewing opportunities and festival events, would you please recommend a skeleton 3-5 day itinerary? Thanks.

It really depends on what you want to see and do. Since peak bloom was announced, you might consider coming for Opening Weekend on March 26 - for Family Day/Opening Ceremony at the National Building Museum and the Blossom Kite Festival on March 27. You have a very very high chance of seeing blossoms then. Add a few trips to museums who are participating in the Festival, and restaurants join us to serve cherry-inspired cuisine ("cherry picks") - and that's a great amount of activity! But, if something like the Parade is a must-do, I'd plan your trip for near the end of the Festival.

How do you plan the festival so that you make sure the trees are in bloom every year?

Well, we can't 100% guarantee the trees and their blooming schedule, but based on history, peak bloom is usually around April 4 (which usually falls in the middle of the Festival). Sometimes the blossoms last all 16 days, and sometimes they don't stay for quite as long - but the good thing about that is since we have free events everyday, there will always be something to do.

How long does it take you guys to plan this event?

People are surprised, but we start planning the next Festival the day after the current one ends. It's a year-long process! We're actually concurrently planning for a huge Centennial Celebration in 2012 - it will mark the 100 year anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees. We hope you'll join us - it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we have lots of exciting things in store!

Whats a day for you like during the festival? How many people do you have on your staff?

There really are no typical days, I do everything from sponsorship development, program development, to execution. I love to be at each and every event when the Festival is going on. We have a relatively small staff, 7 people, but really on a lot of really outstanding volunteers during our busy season. Speaking of - we're still looking for some! It's a great way to get behind the scenes - see how here: http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/get-involved/volunteer/

Hi. I despise Metro. Despise. But I love cherry blossoms. Love! What time would be the best to drive (and find parking) to see the blossoms. I'm not afraid of a walk.

It is not a bad walk at all from Foggy Bottom area, Federal Triangle, L'Enfant Plaza.

Capital Bikeshare will also have a special location on 12th & Independence, staffed during the 3 weekends of the Festival.

Bike Valet with WABA and the National Park Service is back, too!

We highly encourage biking and walking. More here: http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/visitor-information/go/

Would you please outline the considerations for best time to attend the festival and experience the cherry blossoms? In particular, if I value SMELLING them as much as SEEING them, when is the best time to go? What about THIS year in particular? Does it look now like they are early...late..whatever? Thank you.

Well, the blossoms don't actually have a fragrance. Based on today's prediction, we're right in line with the usual peak date. To be on the safe side, I'd probably plan your trip for the earlier part of the Festival rather than later.

In This Chat
Diana Mayhew
Diana Mayhew is the President and Executive Director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., a position she has held since 2001. An area resident for nearly 40 years and a 25-year veteran of Washington?s hospitality industry, Ms. Mayhew had some involvement with the Festival while she was the Director of Marketing for Odyssey Cruises and the Spirit of Washington. At the time, the Festival was comprised of a few events supported by a handful of volunteers.
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