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El Nino Sours Cherry Blossom Festival

Thu., March 5, 1998

Many visitors attending the annual Cherry Blossom festival in the nation’s capital this year may end up missing the main attraction. The season’s mild winter has sparked an early spring, so latecomers may be left staring at tulips.

“As if we don’t have enough to blame on El Nino, we have one more,” National Park Service horticulturist Robert DeFeo half-joked while talking to reporters on Wednesday. “We’re about 10 or 12 days early this year.”

The cherry blossoms are predicted to peak between March 21-28, according to DeFeo. That’s just before the beginning of the 86-year-old National Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place from March 29 though April 12.

Festival-goers will see “plenty of blossoms” during the first days of the event, DeFeo said.

But by the end, “they won’t see any of the white blooms” that sprout around the Tidal Basin area near the national monuments. That is where most tourists flock.

Even the traditionally much-anticipated parade, which falls on April 11, will probably lack many blooms, DeFeo said.

“The bright side is you will have tulips and crabapples for the parade,” he said.

The festival, which brings more than 600,000 visitors to Washington each year, is considered a rite of spring in the nation’s capital. It commemorates Japan’s 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the United States, as well as continuing U.S.-Japan relations.

Last year’s blossoms were also early, peaking on March 26.

Tags: weather

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