Washington opens annual Cherry Blossom Festival while buds remain closed

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The buds still aren't open on the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., but the national festival to honor the annual springtime event is blossoming.

Dignitaries from the nation's capital and from Japan gathered Saturday night to enjoy multicultural performances featuring singers and dancers. The Japanese ambassador to the U.S. marveled at the beauty of the pink and white blossoms but joked about the traffic snarls that also ensue. Washington D.C.'s mayor noted that even though it's spring, the region is expecting a snowstorm on Tuesday.

This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the gift of thousands of cherry trees from Japan as a symbol of friendship with the United States. Peak bloom is expected between April 8th and April 12th.

202-a-12-(Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae (keh-NEE'-chee-roh sah-SY'), in remarks at opening ceremony for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival)-"and heavy traffic (laughter)"-Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae reads aloud a Haiku poem he wrote about Washington's famous Cherry Blossom Festival. (22 Mar 2014)

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