D.C. Cherry Blosson Festival set for April 10

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WASHINGTON -- An international gift made 87 years ago has blossomed into one of the premier tourist events in the nation's capital.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival (NCBF) offers visitors here a slate of activities that culminates with the Cherry Blossom Parade and the Sakura Matsuri, or cherry blossom festival, scheduled for April 10.

The festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees to President William Howard Taft and First Lady Helen Herron Taft by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo.

The 1999 festival will include an Arlington National Cemetery grave site tribute to President Taft, who requited Ozaki's deed with a gift of dogwood trees.

Historical ceremonies, such as the lighting of a 300-year-old stone lantern, will expose visitors to a few of the traditional observances of Japanese culture. The festival culminates with the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and a food expo called Taste of Japan.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the diversity of Washington and a perfect way to bring to a close the annual Cherry Blossom Festival," said Allyson O'Sullivan, president of the Downtown Jaycees, who cosponsor the event with the Japan-America Society.

The Saturday finale features a flotilla of lighted boats motoring along the Washington Channel. This is the first year the flotilla will be staged. National Cherry Blossom Festival, Phone: (202) 547-1500, Web: www.gwjapan.com/cherryblossom

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