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Cherry blossoms to bloom for fest

D.C. residents will look to the city’s famous cherry blossoms for some respite from the wartime gloom.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Turns out Washington’s famed cherry trees will hit their stride during the festival in their honor — a bit of upbeat news for a city looking to woo tourists and dispel some of the wartime gloom from the nation’s capital. The National Park Service announced Tuesday it was moving up the start of the peak bloom for the trees. Earlier this month, they estimated that because of the harsh winter, the peak would begin April 8 — one day after the National Cherry Blossom Festival ends. Now they say the trees will be in their glory April 5-12.

“IN SHORT, it’s the weather,” said National Park Service spokesman Bill Line. The two feet of snow from the President’s Day storm has long since melted. Temperatures Tuesday were in the 70s and had been in the 60s Sunday and Monday. But officials warned that if there is any frost in the coming days, the blossoms could be delayed again.

The festival — which began Saturday — marks the traditional start of the spring tourist season in Washington.

District of Columbia officials, including the mayor and police chief, have been assuring would-be visitors that the city is safe, despite concerns prompted by the war in Iraq, the elevated Code Orange terrorism alert and last week’s 48-hour standoff with a man in a tractor that caused massive traffic gridlock.

“The cherry blossoms offer an alternative to everything else going on in the world,” said Line.

Of the 3,700 Japanese cherry trees planted around the Potomac Tidal Basin, about 100 are from the original stock of 3,000 trees presented to the United States by the Japanese government in 1912. The National Park Service continues to propagate cuttings from the original trees to maintain the historical connection.

Blossom peak has not always coincided with the festival. The earliest the trees have bloomed was on March 15, 1990. The latest was April 18, 1958.© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.