- The Washington Times
Sunday, April 3, 2011

The snow, hail and chilly weather that had greeted visitors to the early days of the Cherry Blossom Festival relented Sunday with a near-perfect day of sunshine and milder temperatures.

“It’s amazing with the beauty of the area,” said Arlington resident Dan Malks, who, with daughter Sarah, was photographing the Jefferson Memorial and the 1,678 cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. “We … come every year. It’s such a great opportunity to see one of the most beautiful and natural one-time occurrences.”

Joe and Barbara Morris, visiting from Houston, were among the millions expected to take part in the 16-day festival that concludes Sunday.

Mrs. Morris recalled seeing trees and their distinct pinkish-white blossoms while her father was in Japan after World Ward II. But this was her first time seeing them in Washington.

“We lived in a home with a mile-long driveway lined with cherry blossoms,” she said. “I’m excited.”

Though temperature are forecast to get even warmer Monday, perhaps reaching 70 degrees, the National Park Service warns about too much of a good thing.

“This is nature’s refrigerator,” agency spokesman Bill Line said. “You never go to the flower shop and see flowers kept in the oven. Cold weather is [the blossoms’] friend. Wind and heat are going to be the blossoms’ enemy.”

District businesses are presumably hoping for something in the middle — good tourist weather and blossoms that continue to look fresh.

A recent study by George Mason University shows the festival brings at least $126 million to the District.

“People don’t understand how big of a deal the Cherry Blossom Festival is,” Mr. Line said.

Sunday’s events also included the Washington Rugby Club’s 45th Cherry Blossom Tournament and the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run, followed by the annual, late-afternoon lighting of a 4,000 pound lantern, a gift from Japan.

The unofficial race winner was Lelisa Desisa, 21, of Ethiopia, with a time of 45 minutes, 36 seconds. Julliah Tinega, 25, of Kenya, was the top female finisher, with a time of 54 minutes, 2 seconds.

The fastest time for a local male was 48 minutes, 39 seconds for David Nightingale, 25, of the District. The fastest local female was Michelle Miller, 30, of Damascus, with a time of 59 minutes, 20 seconds. They finished 14th and seventh in the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. And the kite festival has been rescheduled for Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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