Millions of visitors trek to our nation's capital at one of the most picturesque times of the year each spring to see the coveted cherry blossoms. The festival, which officially opened on the first day of spring, March 20, has a myriad of events planned to commemorate the historical blooming trees.

The first cherry trees, a gift of friendship from the people of Japan to the people of the United States, arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1912. The idea was first presented by Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, who was smitten by the beauty of the trees after a trip to Japan in 1885. Among the thousands of trees planted in the National Capital Region, 20 of the original trees were planted at Fort McNair JBM-HH.

Scidmore was a geographer, photographer and writer who became the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. A native Washingtonian, Scidmore traveled to Japan many times between 1885 and 1928, sometimes in the company of her brother George, a career diplomat.

Keeping the trees disease-free, alive, safe from vandalism, beavers and weather hasn't been easy. There is a long history of their journey from Japan available on numerous websites, including the National Park Service site at www.nps.gov/cherry/cherry-blossom-history.htm.

The first Cherry Blossom Festival in 1935 was sponsored by numerous civic organizations and became an annual event in the years to follow. Every year thousand of people across the United States come to view the event.

In celebration of 100 years of the gift of trees, the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs through April 27, has a variety of events planned. For a festival calendar and details on all events, go to www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/category/events.

Page last updated Mon March 26th, 2012 at 00:00