Cherry blossom festival offers inspiration for visitors, artists

MARCH 27, 2011

Marlena Chertock

artist paints cherry blossoms

Local artist Justin Pyles painted several landscapes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, March 26. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

He set up several canvases, paint tubes and paintbrushes and sat on the grass, in clear view of the cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial. He moved swiftly from one unfinished painting to the next, like he couldn’t focus on one at a time.

Justin Pyles is a local artist. He came out to the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. for inspiration and to paint scenes of the flowers, Tidal Basin and passersby.

Pyles usually completes four or five paintings on a full day of painting, he said.

The Tidal Basin was full of visitors, D.C. locals, school groups, volunteers and photographers on Saturday, March 26.

This year the festival will run from March 26 to April 10.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival will run from March 26 to April 10, 2011. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

The cherry blossom trees were a gift to the U.S. from Japan. Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave several cherry blossom trees to D.C. in 1912. The annual festival celebrates and honors the friendship between the U.S. and Japan, according to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.

The flowers normally stay in bloom for one week.

Throughout the day volunteers manned large tents and passed out pins and information about the cherry blossoms. They want to inform visitors about how to treat the flowers carefully and not to harm them, according to volunteer Jennifer Neighbors.

Neighbors has volunteered at the festival for four years. She enjoys the work, she said. Neighbors walks around the Tidal Basin for four hours, patrolling and making sure the trees are not being harmed by visitors.

Neighbors was surprised to find out that it is illegal for people to take flowers off the trees to keep or put in their hair, she said.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.


Justin Pyles talks about painting cherry blossoms

Jennifer Neighbors talks about volunteering at the festival

Neighbors talks about the history of protecting the cherry blossom trees


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About Marlena Chertock

Marlena Chertock's first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, and WTOP. Her poems and fiction has appeared in The Deaf Poets Society, Moonsick Magazine, and Paper Darts.

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