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National Cherry Blossom Festival Kicks Off This Week

UPDATED March 19, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill

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As spring arrives, attention turns to flowers blooming and green reappearing on the landscape. One famous early spring event that will rev into high gear is the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation`s capital.

Coined the nation`s greatest springtime celebration, this event attracts more than 700,000 visitors to the nation`s capital each year. The 3,020 cherry trees were a gift to the U.S. by Japan in 1912, making this the 101st anniversary of the celebration.

This year, 150 trees will be planted in West Potomac Park to add to the spring scenery. First lady Michelle Obama was the honorary chair for last year`s celebration and planted one cherry tree in the same park.

The cherry blossoms are a sure sign of spring in the Mid-Atlantic. They are part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a four-week celebration of arts and culture in Washington, D.C., that runs from March 20 to April 14 this year.

The expected date when the blooms explode with color is controlled by the how much above or below average winter temperatures have been as well as recent trends in the weather. The official weather observing station in Washington, D.C., Reagan National Airport, is coming out of a mild winter with temperatures about 3 degrees above average; the only month cooler than average was February.

Despite the milder than average winter, the cold March has put a hold on the expected peak bloom dates. This is when 70% of the cherry blossoms are open and the best color is displayed along the Tidal Potomac. The National Park Service announced Tuesday the peak bloom will be April 3 to 6, which coincides with the average bloom date of April 4.

Last year the peak week for the cherry blossoms was two weeks earlier than this year`s expected arrival due to the third warmest winter on record and string of 80-degree weather in early-to-mid-March. The earliest peak bloom on record was March 15, 1990 while the latest into the season the cherry blossoms reached peak bloom was April 18, 1958.

Washington, D.C., isn`t the only city to play host to spring flower festivals. Macon, Ga., is celebrating 31 years of its own International Cherry Blossom Festival. Showcasing 300,000 of Macon`s world-renowned Yoshino Cherry Trees, the events kicked off March 15 and continue through March 21.

North Carolina`s Azalea Festival is right around the corner in early April. Events such as a parade, art shows, garden tours and the fun Azalea 5K and 10K run are great family activities to participate in! This event starts April 10 and goes through April 14.

Check with your local tourist board for information on flower festivals and wildflower trails in your neighborhood. If you do travel to see the spring blooms this weekend or over the next couple weeks, please share your pictures with fellow WeatherBug users by clicking the "Your Photos" link.

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Story Image: Cherry trees blossom along the Tidal Basin near the National Mall in 2010. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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