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.
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.
Get an inside look at the 2021 Festival Events that happened in person and at home!
Learn what you might not know about the National Cherry Blossom Festival with these fun facts!
2022 OFFICIAL FESTIVAL ARTIST
Photo credits: Stephanie Williams Images
ABOUT THE 2022 OFFICIAL ARTIST: LEA CRAIGIE-MARSHALL
Born in Falls Church, VA in 1976, Lea showed talent from an early age. A born artist, she spent her childhood taking various art classes with her artist grandmother in the mountains of West Virginia. Lea also found inspiration at home in her mother, also an artist. These strong female influences, as well as visiting her beloved first hometown of Washington, DC on weekends served as powerful forces to mold Lea into the dynamic and compelling artist she is today. Lea is a multidisciplinary, contemporary artist working with various mediums and techniques. Lea was first connected with the National Cherry Blossom Festival as one of 25 artists selected to paint a 2021 Art in Bloom Giant Cherry Blossom Sculpture titled “Crane’s Dance” which now permanently resides at Ward Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ward 7. Lea prides herself on not only using various mediums and techniques but mastering each one. Whether it is through a political/social activism piece, a beautiful landscape, a large-scale mural, or a portrait of one of her favorite artists Frida Kahlo, she hopes to evoke a deep connection within the viewer.
Festival Art Merchandise
Shop 2022 Official Art Merchandise!
Starting March 18th, Navy Yard and L’Enfant Metro stations will offer special edition Cherry Blossom SmarTrip cards designed by Lea Craigie-Marshall for a limited time.
History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival
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.
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.
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.
In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.
School children reenacted the initial planting and other activities, holding the first “festival” in 1927. Civic groups helped expand the festivities in 1935.
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.
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.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival pivoted to a virtual Festival with one week's notice at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As the pandemic continued, the 2021 Festival featured hybrid programs and activities that extended beyond the Tidal Basin – across the District, in adjacent neighborhoods in Maryland and Virginia and even across the country and around the world.
The 2022 Festival celebrates the 110th anniversary of the gift of trees. What started with a gift is now one of the world’s greatest celebrations of spring.
As a CPA firm serving the non-profit community, Rubino partners with the festival to tell its financial story and demonstrate the value and credibility of its financial statements.
A full-service communications and marketing agency, with expertise in media relations and stakeholder engagement, Meraki partners with the Festival to artfully shape and amplify its stories through an inclusive lens.
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