Thousands of cherry trees given by Japan as a present to the U.S. nearly a century ago began blooming in Washington D.C. yesterday, ushering in the Cherry Blossom Festival, the city's top tourist attraction.
"The weather conditions this past weekend were ideal for moving the cherry blossoms forward," said National Park Service National Capital Region Chief Horticulturist Robert DeFeo, the man in charge of nearly 4,000 cherry trees around the Tidal Basin.
The U.S. park service measures with scientific precision the Blooming Period of the trees that starts when 20 percent of the blossoms open and peaks at 70 percent or more.
This year the peak blooming dates forecast for the festival are April 1 to April 4, four days earlier than expected due to last week's unseasonably warm weather. The revised, full blooming period has been set for March 28 to April 9.
"As always, I reserve the right to further update the range of blooming date schedule if necessary," said DeFeo.
This year's Cherry Blossom Festival, from March 27 to April 11, is expected to draw over one million visitors to the bank of the Potomac River to see its walks lined with curtains of overhanging branches heavy with pink flowers.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival also includes among other events a parade, fireworks show, gala dinner cruise, river-boat, pedal-boat and bicycle tours, a lantern lighting ceremony and a Japanese street festival.