ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
WELCOME TO THE NATION’S GREATEST SPRINGTIME CELEBRATION!
The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC, and celebrates the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. Today’s Festival now spans four weeks and welcomes more than 1.5 million people to enjoy diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. Events are primarily free and open to the public.
2019 FESTIVAL IMAGES
See why today’s National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown from modest beginnings to one of the world’s greatest celebrations of spring. Explore the rich history of the Festival with highlights from past festivals and our many special events.
2019 OFFICIAL FESTIVAL ARTWORK
ABOUT THE 2019 OFFICIAL ARTIST - SIMON BULL
Simon Bull’s work celebrates the joy and mystery of life through the bold use of color and intriguing painting techniques. While his inspiration is broadly drawn from the natural world, it is the vivid use of color that truly defines his paintings.Simon is the recipient of numerous national and international awards. He has exhibited widely throughout the world, especially in the US, China, Europe and his native London. In 2007, he formed a working relationship with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who selected him to chronicle his career through a series of portraits that included joint portraits of both the champ and President Obama. The British-born artist is now a US citizen and resides in California.
The 2019 Commemorative Poster is available for purchase here.
History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival
1912: 3,000 CHERRY TREES GIFTED
More than 3,000 trees arrived in Washington in 1912 after coordination between the governments of the two countries, Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a world-famous chemist and the founder of Sankyo Co., Ltd. (today known as Daiichi Sankyo), Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Eliza Scidmore, first female board member of the National Geographic Society, and First Lady Helen Herron Taft.
MARCH 1912: FIRST TREES PLANTED
In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.
1912 – PRESENT: FIRST LADIES INVOLVED
Since First Lady Taft’s involvement, the nation’s first ladies have been proponents of the Festival. Historically, many were involved in events through the National Conference of State Societies’ Princess Program. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower crowned Queen Janet Bailey in 1953, and in 1976 Betty Ford invited the princesses to the White House. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 Yoshino trees from the government of Japan and held a tree planting reenactment. All first ladies in recent years have served as Honorary Chair, many participating as well. In 1999, First Lady Hillary Clinton took part in a tree planting ceremony. In 2001, First Lady Laura Bush greeted guests with remarks at the Opening Ceremony. Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama was involved in 2012, planting a cherry tree in West Potomac Park among dignitaries and guests.
1915: UNITED STATES RECIPROCATES
In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.
1927 – 1935: SCHOOLS & CIVIC GROUPS EXPAND FESTIVITIES
School children reenacted the initial planting and other activities, holding the first “festival” in 1927. Civic groups helped expand the festivities in 1935.
1981: JAPAN GIVEN CUTTINGS FOLLOWING FLOOD
In 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the original trees in DC to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.
1994 – 2012: FESTIVAL EXPANDS PROGRAMMING
The Festival expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse schedule during the blooming period. Growing again in 2012, the 100-year anniversary was marked with a five-week celebration.
TODAY AND BEYOND
The National Cherry Blossom Festival now spans four weeks and is composed of more than 50 events and programs. Through signature and participating events, the Festival unites cultural organizations and businesses, showcasing DC as the premier springtime destination. The Festival brings the celebration to all eight wards of the city and into the region.
Advance year-round planning is required in order to continuously strengthen and amplify the Festival organization and programming. Through fresh, transformational, and innovative programming, the Festival continues to deepen engagement and impact while evolving the attendee experience.
Have a question or comment for us? We want to hear from you!