Spring, Cherry Blossom Festival mirror gradual reopening from the pandemic

Ordinarily, D.C. would be in the midst of cherry blossom mania about now, with crowds in the hundreds of thousands about to descend on the Tidal Basin to see blossoms close to hitting peak bloom.

Families would be ready to hit the National Mall for this weekend’s kite festival, and runners would be stretching those hamstrings out with the Cherry Blossom 10-miler right around the corner.

All of those events are still happening, though the pandemic means things have gone virtual this year.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Step Into Spring,” and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the warm this weekend, check out cherry blossoms and celebrate their arrival and still maintain the health safety requirements demanded by the pandemic.

“We’re trying not to make this 100% virtual,” said National Cherry Blossom Festival President Diana Mayhew. “This festival this year is intended to include personal experiences.”

The natural inclination might be to head to the Tidal Basin this weekend to walk around the cherry trees there, but the National Park Service really doesn’t want people to do that — offering the BloomCam up as an alternative.

There are other places visitors can see cherry trees in other parts of the region.

“There are other cherry trees all over the community,” said Mayhew. “The festival itself has planted over a thousand cherry trees in the last 15 years around the city.”

There are also plenty of blooming trees at the National Arboretum. Many neighborhoods are also bursting with pink and white blossoms from trees planted in front yards all over the region. Some of them are listed on the cherry blossom festival’s website, too.

“We have over 500 registrants to decorate their homes,” as part of the blossom’s “petal porch parade,” which is getting people involved in new ways this year.

“We’re encouraging neighbors to go and visit each other in a safe way to see the houses — it’s becoming a competition,” Mayhew said. “There is virtual involved because people are sharing their pictures. And so we’re seeing what’s happening and they’re sharing with each other, but they’re spurring each other on to be actually physically involved.”

The upcoming kite festival is largely virtual this year — with workshops and demonstrations online — but the hope is that people will still go out in their backyards or to a local park and let things fly.

Mayhew said people in 44 states around the country have registered.

“There are virtual elements that also help us get people that are outside of the Maryland, D.C., Virginia area,” she said.

However, with more people getting vaccinated, society as a whole is starting to open up again, and after going entirely virtual last year, the festival is opening up too.

While we documented some of the virtual events, there are also art exhibits set up all over the city, not just in all eight wards, but also at National Landing and National Harbor.

Mayhew has stressed there are 173 restaurants around the region with special cherry blossom-themed menus to get people in the springtime mood while supporting local businesses.

“There are things to come out and actually do and have the spirit of spring because you need to be outside in the spring time,” Mayhew said. “We’ve all been inside long enough.”

Road closures

The National Park Service said Ohio Drive from the John Ericsson Memorial to Hains Point along the Potomac is closed to drivers. The surrounding areas and memorials remain open to pedestrian and cyclists.

The Park Service said this is being done “in anticipation of and to prevent crowds.”


More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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