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Cherry blossom festivities underway

(Published March 26, 2001)

By PATRICE DICKENS

Staff Writer

For years, the beautiful pink and white, ruffle-like puffs of flowers that surround the Tidal Basin have drawn thousands of locals and visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year will be no exception.

The festival, which began March 25 and continues through April 8, features a multitude of events Ė including a parade, a fashion show, a grand ball and banquet, a lantern-lighting ceremony, cherry tree planting, athletic competitions and much more. Depending on Mother Nature, the festival may or may not coincide with the peak of the cherry blossoms.

Among the festivities will be the selection April 5 of the "United States Cherry Blossom Queen" from among the cherry blossom princesses.

This year, Howard University law student Sarah Elizabeth K. Langford was selected by the National Conference of State Societies to represent the District as its cherry blossom princess.

"Itís really an honor to represent D.C. in such a large festival," Langford said.

Langford is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with a bachelorís degree in French. Her love for meeting people of different cultures was her motivating factor for submitting her application to become a cherry blossom princess, she said.

The Cherry Blossom Princess Program is sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies on behalf of individual member state societies. Every year since 1948, state societies have selected students as princesses to represent their states in the festival.

D.C. State Society President B. Three Feathers Kazemi, a Ward 7 resident, said 45 states are expected to participate in this yearís festivities. She also expects seven or eight international princesses as well.

"Itís not a requirement for each state or territory to participate," Kazemi said. "Itís just a nice thing to do. Most states will send their princesses to participate."

Princesses perform a variety of public relations and diplomatic duties during the week which are an integral part of the overall educational and goodwill mission of the festival. The Cherry Blossom Queen, who is selected by a random spin of a wheel of fortune, and the first runner-up may be asked to represent the National Conference of State Societies at other events during their year-long reign. Every year since 1973, the queen has been invited to visit Japan by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual commemoration of the gift in 1912 of 3,000 cherry trees by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. The trees and the festival are symbolic of national friendship between the United States and Japan and a celebration of the continued close relationship between the people of the two countries.

Here are some of the scheduled public events:

March 27

*Tree Planting: Cherry blossom tree planting by Arakawa Sukura Club and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Arakawa-Potomac Sister Project and by the "U.S.-Japan Friendship Trans-America Walk 2001," which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Peach Treaty signed in 1951.

March 29

*Official National Cherry Blossom Festival Luncheon Cruise: Boarding at 10:45 a.m., cruise 11:30 a.m. Ė 1:30 p.m., $44.80 fee; 600 Water St. SW; cruise aboard the Odyssey. Live entertainment.

March 31

*Cherry Blossom Parade: 9:30 a.m. to noon, Constitution Avenue NW from Seventh to 17th Street; sponsored by the Downtown Jaycees, features giant balloons, floats, bands and specialty groups. Included are the state and international cherry blossom princesses and the crowned 2000 Cherry Blossom Queen and her Japanese counterpart.

*Matsuri Festival: Noon to 5 p.m., Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues NW, next to the Old Post Office; features indigenous specialties prepared by chefs of local Japanese restaurants, beverages, handcrafted items, entertainment. Sponsored by Japan-American Society. Entrance is free; all other items are purchased individually.

*Cherry Blossom GO (Baduk, Weichi) Tournament: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sumner School, 1201 17th St. NW; board game played by millions in the Orient that uses both analytical and intuitive skills. Beginners to experts are invited. Free event.

*National Park Service Concert: 11 a.m. to noon, Jefferson Memorial; free.

*National Cherry Blossom Festival Youth Soccer Tournament: 1 p.m. to dusk, Carter Barron Park, 16th and Kennedy Streets NW; city-based co-ed teams participate in match play. Free event.

April 1

*Lantern Lighting Ceremony: 3 p.m., Tidal Basin; jointly sponsored by National Conference of State Societies and the National Park Service, features remarks by the Japanese ambassador and other dignitaries and the lighting of the 300-year-old stone lantern by the ambassador and the Embassy of Japan princess. The Toho Koto Society of Washington and the Cardinal Choir will perform. Free event.

*Japanese Childrenís Day: 11 a.m., Arise Gallery, 6925 Willow St. NW; celebration of Japanese culture for children, featuring origami, kimono dress-up, story-telling, crafts.

*Book Signing and Kimono Talk: 2 p.m. Arise Gallery, 6925 Willow St. NW; Paul McLardy and Cheryl Imperatore, co-authors of the book "Kimono Ė Vanishing Tradition," will give a hands-on talk about Japanese textiles and sign books.

*Festival of Origami Architecture: Noon to 4 p.m., National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW; hands-on activities celebrating the art of origami and the art of designing buildings, featuring a demonstration by master origami architect Takaaki Kihara from Tokyo. Free event but registration required.

April 2

*National Park Service Concert: 11 a.m. to noon, Lincoln Memorial; Kickapoo High School from Viola, Wisc. Free event.

April 5

*Grand Ball & Banquet: 6 p.m. to midnight, Ritz Carlton, 22nd and M Streets NW; capping the Cherry Blossom Festival festivities is the Grand Ball and Banquet when the 2001 Cheery Blossom Queen is selected; black-tie ball features a sushi reception, followed by dinner and dancing, entertainment and celebrity guests. On-site, indoor parking. Reserved seating only - $100 per person. Tickets will be held at the door.

*Concert and Cultural Fair: Noon to 2 p.m., Franklin Square Park; sponsored by the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District.

*Cherry Blossom Chamber Music Concert: 7:30 p.m. St. Augustineís Episcopal Church, Sixth Street and Maine Avenue SW.

April 6

*Annual Cherry Tree Planting: 10 a.m., Jefferson Memorial; the governor of Guifi, in conjunction with the National Park Service, and several other local dignitaries will hold a ceremonial cherry tree planting on the front plaza of the Jefferson Memorial. Free event.

*Official National Cherry Blossom Festival Gala: reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. Four Seasons Hotel; crowning of National Cherry Blossom Queen. Cost: $125. Black tie optional.

*National Park Service Concert: 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial; Edgerton High School from Sandusky, Ohio.

April 7

*National Park Service Concert: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Lincoln Memorial; Champlin Park High School from Tempe, Ariz.

*Parade of Lighted Boats: 8 p.m., Southwest Waterfront; Brightly decorated boats will sail in the channel, sponsored by the Washington Waterfront Association.

*Third Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk: 9:30 a.m. Sign in on the National Mall; Sponsored by the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation. $15 for adults, $10 forchildren and seniors.

April 8

*National Park Service Concert: 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Lincoln Memorial; Antelope Valley Childrenís Chorus.

*National Cherry Blossom Festival Youth Soccer Clinic & Skills Competition: 2-4 p.m.; Carter Barron Park, 16th and Kennedy Streets NW; city-based co-ed youth league players compete in skills competition.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator