D.C.

Cherry Blossom Festival opens

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Despite the possibility of snow, the Cherry Blossom Festival is in full bloom. The threat of bad weather hasn’t dampened spirits.

So far, there are only buds on the District’s 3,700 cherry trees.

“Pretty soon, it’s got to warm up a little bit more,” says Lillian Johnson.

“It looks like they’re going to be very, very beautiful once they start to bloom,” says Tonya Hester-Williams, who visited from Florida.

Visits strolled along the Tidal Basin and snapped photos Saturday.

“We haven’t seen a cherry blossom, not one,” says Melinda Welsh of Norfolk, Va.

Fans are learning Mother Nature has her own timetable.

“Just been too cold, that’s all. Hopefully next week they’ll be out for everybody at the end of the festival,” says Randy Welsh.

Crowds are building even as opening ceremonies began this weekend.

The blossoms are a tourist magnet with one million visitors during the festival’s run between March 20 and April 14.

“It’s just an awesome feeling knowing our capital is decorated with such beautiful flowers. It’s an awesome experience just to know we’re here,” says Hester-Williams.

The wintry weather means the blossoms aren’t expected to peak until April 3, but fans of the gift from the mayor of Tokyo 101 years ago are keeping the faith.

“We’ll be down next weekend for sure. By then they’ll be in full bloom as long as the weather holds,” says Lisa Jones-Brown of Woodbridge.

The peak is expected between April 3 and April 6, but some blossoms could pop before that. The National Park Service says the earliest peak was March 17, 2000 and the latest was April 11, 1993.

Metro customers should expect more crowded trains and stations during the Cherry Blossom season. To avoid crowds, visitors are encouraged to travel during non-rush hour times and if possible, avoid traveling at the height of the afternoon peak period, which is from 4 to 6 p.m.

Riders who usually use Smithsonian Station are urged to stagger their arrival and departure times for work or use L'Enfant Plaza, Archives, Federal Triangle or Union Station.

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