By Selina Dudley
UJW Staff Writer
WASHINGTON – Crowds and entertainment flooded the streets of D.C. as the nation’s capital celebrated this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, a commemoration of Japan’s gift of cherry blossoms trees 100 years ago.
According to police officers, an estimated half-million people flanked Constitution Avenue on April 14 to witness the marching bands, celebrities, and choral performances. This annual event unites people and traditions from all walks of life, whether foreign or familiar, to the District.
Among some of the tourists were 23-year-olds Randi Tate and Bao Tram.
Tram and Tate, who have been friends since high school, traveled from Philadelphia to behold the festival. Despite being a graduate from the district’s Howard University, Tate said this was her first time at the parade.
What interested Tate most were the men in uniform. She stood along Constitution Avenue and 7th Street near members of the Marine Corps marching band from Quantico, Va., who were equipped with guns. During what seemed to be a break from minutes of being motionlessly still, several of the uniformed men seized the opportunity to stretch and catch a break.
Tate acknowledged to Tram the difficulty in the men’s job. “Look! They are shaking out their knees. It’s hard standing on your feet like that for so long, you try it. It’s a hard life. I could never do it.”
Within the masses of tourists, many locals also attended the festival. Yatsuka Ooi, who came with his wife and two children, said he came to see the “big funny balloons, and Japanese tamagawa dancers and drums.” Ooi and his family moved from Japan to McLean, Va., six months ago to work at the Embassy of Japan.
Although Ooi enjoyed the ambiance of the festival, it was discouraging for him that the cherry blossoms were gone. “I am disappointed and sad that the cherry blossoms are no longer in bloom. My family and I were really looking forward to seeing them,” he said.
As people continued to crowd the streets and blocked sectioned areas, police officers tried to maintain control. But some people stood on planters and ignored police orders.
“Get down from that.” “Move back.” “Stand to the side,” officers instructed to the crowd.
For no apparent reason, a homeless woman began to shout obscenities.
Wearing a black and white puppy hat and holding a bag with clothes in it, she heckled bystanders at 9th Street and Constitution Avenue, two blocks from the beginning of the parade route.
Located on the same corner, a pink truck owned by Chef Hayes and labeled “Reba’s Funnel Cakes,” was decked out in sweet treats. The one-week old company made its début at this year’s festival and deemed itself the “Nations Capitol 1st Official Funnel Cake Truck.”
Whether a newcomer to the festival, or an annual observer, the events of the celebration offer up excitement and activity to everyone.
Mousam Ghosh is one of them. Standing a mere 4-foot-tall in her pink, traditional Indian churidar, she enjoys the festival every year.
“In my opinion, it is a beautiful and extraordinary sequence of events,” she said.