National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with opening ceremony

WASHINGTON — The National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Opening Ceremony took place in D.C. Sunday evening, a day later than originally planned.

The ceremony was slated to take place on March 24, but was pushed back by a day because of the March For Our Lives rally that took place in the District, Saturday. Organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival that attracts more than 1.5 million people said they made the decision after taking into consideration crowds and road closures associated with the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence.

The festival’s opening ceremony was held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Warner Theatre.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival welcomes springtime to D.C. and celebrates the anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan to the United States. The trees, both in Japan and the U.S., symbolize birth and renewal.

The change of date is not the only alteration to the world-renowned festival that draws visitors from across the U.S. and internationally. The cherry blossoms in D.C. won’t now hit peak bloom until the week of April 8, according to a new estimate from the National Park Service. 

Peak bloom occurs when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees are in bloom.

“With the continued cold temperatures we’re experiencing and a little snow doesn’t help either, we’re now looking at peak bloom occurring sometime between April 8 and April 12,” said National Mall spokesman Mike Litterst. “Historically, that puts it about five days after the average peak bloom date, which is April 3.”

This is the second time the parks service has pushed back when it expects peak bloom. The organization originally expected it to happen between March 17 and March 20, but that was pushed back to March 27 and March 31 because of the colder-than-normal weather in March.

Litterst said the one silver lining from the delay is D.C. cherry blossoms could be hitting peak bloom during the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s parade.

Sunday’s National Cherry Blossom Festival’s opening ceremony was billed as a showcase of great American and Japanese talent.

Performers include: T.M. Revolution, Akiko Yano and the Shodo Girls from Fukuoka Prefectural Yahata Chuo High School.

Watch WJLA’s stream of the ceremony.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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