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D.C. Readies for Cherry Blossom Show

February 24, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After a cold and snowy winter, officials in the nation’s capital said Thursday they are looking forward to an early April annual bloom of cherry blossoms.

``They’re going to bloom the first week of April,″ said Robert DeFeo, a horticulturist with the National Park Service. DeFeo has successfully predicted the time of peak bloom activity for the 3,000 Japanese cherry trees that line the Potomac River tidal basin for the past nine years.

``It’s just basic biology,″ said DeFeo, adding that the bloom always takes place between March 15 and April 18. This year, he expects the white flowers to be at their peak around April 4, based on current weather conditions and bloom bud development.

The trees, whose flagrant blooms mark the start of spring, are direct descendants of the Yoshino cherry trees given to the U.S. government by the Japanese in 1912. They have become a major spring tourist attraction.

Washington’s 39th annual Sakura Matsuri, or Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 26 through April 9. It is highlighted by several arts and sports events throughout the region.

The Samurai Performance Group of Tokyo, Okinawan folk dancers, and jazz musicians from Japan also are scheduled to perform at events on the National Mall, Kennedy Center, and other locations.

The festival parade, set for Saturday, April 8, will feature 3,000 participants and at least 12 bands. That event, sponsored by the Downtown Jaycees, traditionally attracts about 200,000 spectators. That evening a parade of lighted boats is set to cruise the nearby Potomac River.

``The festival brings in more than 600,000 visitors to the city,″ said Donna DeSormeaux, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C. Convention and Visitors Association.