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Washington opens annual Cherry Blossom Festival while buds remain closed

Sunday - 3/23/2014, 12:41am  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The buds still aren't open on the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., but the national festival to honor the annual springtime event is blossoming.

Dignitaries from the nation's capital and from Japan gathered Saturday night to enjoy multicultural performances featuring singers and dancers. The Japanese ambassador to the U.S. marveled at the beauty of the pink and white blossoms but joked about the traffic snarls that also ensue. Washington D.C.'s mayor noted that even though it's spring, the region is expecting a snowstorm on Tuesday.

This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the gift of thousands of cherry trees from Japan as a symbol of friendship with the United States. Peak bloom is expected between April 8th and April 12th.

202-a-12-(Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae (keh-NEE'-chee-roh sah-SY'), in remarks at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)-"and heavy traffic (laughter)"-Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae reads aloud a Haiku poem he wrote about Washington's famous Cherry Blossom Festival. (22 Mar 2014)

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203-a-10-(Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae (keh-NEE'-chee-roh sah-SY'), in remarks at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)-"and Japanese culture"-Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae says he loves seeing large crowds in Washington to view the annual blossoming of the cherry trees. (22 Mar 2014)

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201-r-36-(Sound of 13-year-old Geneveive Make Meier (jehn-uh-VEEV' MAK'-ee MY'-ur), student from Cabin John, Maryland, performing the Japanese national anthem, at the opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)--Sound of 13-year-old Geneveive Make Meier, student from Cabin John, Maryland, performing the Japanese national anthem, at the opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, (22 Mar 2014)

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204-a-15-(Diana Mayhew, president, Cherry Blossom Festival, in remarks at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)-"last a lifetime"-Cherry Blossom Festival President Diana Mayhew says the annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees that Tokyo's mayor gave to the United States in 1912. (22 Mar 2014)

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206-r-29-(Sound of Rimi Natsukawa (REE'-mee naht-soo-KOW'-uh), Japanese recording artist, performing at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)--Sound of Rimi Natsukawa, Japanese recording artist, performing at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. (22 Mar 2014)

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205-a-18-(Mayor Vincent Gray, D-District of Columbia, in remarks at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)-"event next, uh, Tuesday"-Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says the Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge attraction for tourism. (22 Mar 2014)

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On the Web: http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org


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