DC in Blossom:
The national cherry blossom festival

  Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

A recent survey revealed that 17 percent of people think the National Cherry Blossom Festival is entirely funded by local government. What many do not know, however, is that the Festival is not just a week of events, it's actually a nonprofit organization. 

According to the website, “The National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the beauty of nature and international friendship through year-round programs, events, and educational initiatives that enhance our environment, showcase arts and culture, and build community spirit.”

President of the NCBF Diana Mayhew, who has been in the position for 14 years, said both her role and the festival itself is "really about relationships."

 The Cherry Blossom Festival, she said, is a wonderful opportunity to provide cultural experiences. "We have this fabulous platform, why not use it?" 

  Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

 While the blossoms themselves, particularly around the Tidal Basin, are perhaps DC’s most beautiful sign of spring, the National Cherry Blossom Festival boasts opportunities for residents and visitors alike to support the troops, enhance the local environment, and encourage children to increase their understand and appreciation of other cultures.

“My biggest wish,” said Diana, “is to make sure the children who live here really appreciate (the National Cherry Blossom Festival), and learn to embrace it to keep the spirit and the tradition.”

She hopes to continue to grow the educational programming of the festival, she said, to teach children about environmental stewardship, peace and international friendship.

“By teaching them about another culture, they finding how they can relate, and it opens up their world and understanding,” she said. “It opens up a curiosity that hopefully they can continue.”

  Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Each year, a group of college students or recent graduates are selected as Goodwill Ambassadors to help plan and lead activities for children, as well as act as cultural liaisons at area schools.

The Festival works in cooperation with Casey Trees and the Arbor Day Foundation to host tree planting programs across the District. Taking part in such events, Diana said, the residents of D.C. can bear witness to, and celebrate, an ongoing sense of growth. They can literally see the seeds they have sown blossom.

“The beauty of the city is interwoven throughout the neighborhood,” she said, “and they are a part of it.” 

 First Lady Michelle Obama plants a tree at the centennial Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012.   Photo credit: whitehouse.gov

First Lady Michelle Obama plants a tree at the centennial Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012. Photo credit: whitehouse.gov