By Darrin Brown Jr.
UJW Staff Writer
WASHINGTON – Constitution Avenue was filled with spectators Saturday for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.
Families, friends, and strangers packed the grandstands, sidewalks, and climbed most every other available piece of architecture in order to see the vibrant, creative and entertaining displays. There were floats, dancing, carriages, giant balloons and marching bands.
“Who doesn’t love a parade?” asked Jennifer Adams of Pittsburgh, who attended the parade with a group of friends.
It has been 100 years since the United States received some 3,000 cherry blossom trees as a gift from Japan celebrating the symbol of international friendship. The eye-catching cherry blossom trees were placed around the District and ring the Tidal Basin.
The parade, which is a part of a five-week celebration, overflowed with celebrities, colorful traditional Japanese dress, high school and college bands, and giant highflying balloons.
Huge cherry blossoms, and Japanese lantern balloons flew in the sky, carried by volunteers who smiled and waved at the crowd. Some famous characters in the form of balloons also made appearances in the sky including Miss Piggy, the detective dog Scooby-Doo and the VeggieTales characters, to the amusement of the attendees.
“Oh my god. That’s hysterical,” someone shouted from the crowd in reaction to Larry Boy the cucumber.
Taiko drummers and dancers from Tamagawa University were on the scene in colorful traditional Japanese garments, the males in the group that road on the float performed a drumming medley while the females walking behind danced to the beat, to the cheers of the crowd.
Ballou High School in southeast D.C. was the first high school band to march, clad in blue and gold uniforms, while spectators on 7th Street cheered. The Howard University band, accompanied by majorettes caught the crowd’s attention with their fun dancing. There were a dozen marching bands in the parade.
Glenda Hinton of Upper Marlboro, who was sitting in collapsible chairs with her family, said she tries to come out to the parade every year because she loves being at the event with her relatives.
“My favorite thing is seeing different ethnic groups represented, the dancers, and the high school bands,” Hinton said.
This is the second year at the parade for Heather Padilla, who lives in the area she came back because she wanted to bring their visitors from Arizona. Her favorite thing about the parade is the “people watching.”
She will have plenty of people to watch because the police estimated that a half a million people came out to enjoy the parade. “I’ll come back next year,” Padilla said.