From the Cherry Blossom Visitor's Center at Newark's Branch Brook Park, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., together with the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Branch Brook Park Alliance, announced Thursday the line-up of activities for the 35th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. This year's festival will be dedicated to the earthquake and tsunami victims of Japan.
“Branch Brook Park has been put on the map with its 4,300 cherry blossom trees, the largest collection in the world,” said Essex County Parks Director Dan Salvante. “Once again, we’re here to celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossoms in this park.”
Thousands of visitors from throughout the area and around the world converge on the park every April to see the first pink flowers bloom on the trees. Essex County has long sponsored events to coincide with the start of the season. The festival is a point of pride for Belleville, which identifies itself as the "Cherry Blossom Capital of America."
Salvante announced the festival’s lineup of events, which kicks off on April 4 with the Cherry Blossom Gala hosted by the BBPA at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville.
Other activities include a bike race on April 9, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a 1-mile "Fun Run" and 10K Run on April 10, beginning at 8 a.m. There’s also a Bagel and Blossom Lecture Series from April 11 to 15, at 8:15 every morning, at the Visitors Center. During lunchtime from April 12 to 14, guided trolley tours will be available throughout the park. Then on April 16, there will be a photography workshop from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Cherry Blossom Festival culminates on April 17 with Bloomfest happening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and featuring cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food and other activities for the whole family to enjoy.
“It’s a great day to be out in the park,” said Salvante.
“The cherry blossom tree is symbolic of our partnership with Japan,” said Anibal Ramos, a Newark councilman. “In light of the recent tragedy that took place there, this year we have a lot to celebrate and remember.” He also added, “The Cherry Blossom Festival does a lot for this community in terms of attracting visitors and promoting our local businesses, and for this we’d like to thank Joe for his leadership as well as the Board of Chosen Freeholders.”
“The cherry blossoms at Branch Brook Park has truly become a destination,” said DiVincenzo. “So they not only talk about the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., now they talk about the Essex County Branch Brook Park.
“We’re dedicating this festival to the people of Japan. These cherry blossoms originated from Japan so we wanted to be able to raise money for them and give back.”
Fifty percent of the proceeds generated from the Cherry Blossom Festival lapel pins will be donated to the Red Cross for Japan. The pins cost $5 each and will be sold at the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center during the first two weeks of April and throughout all festival events. Donations will also be received by the Center for the benefit of the people of Japan.
For more information about the festival events and how to make a donation, visit branchbrookpark.org.