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Formal Ceremony Surrounds 359-Year Old Lantern

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A shining gift from Japan in 1954.
National Park Service
A shining gift from Japan in 1954.

A year's worth of work has gone into the three weeks of this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Activities are bursting all around town just like the blossoms, from fireworks and parades to nature walks and cultural tours. But, says Festival Secretary Barbara Erlich, it's only been in the last ten years that a professional staff has covered the details. "This thing was getting so big and so important to the region that volunteers could not really carry the ball."

The trees we see today are actually a second gift from Japan. The first shipment of trees sent in 1909 were infested with bugs and had to be burned. "Even though it was probably an awful thing, for a government official to have been involved with something that didn't work out, that didn't matter. Because they kept with the notion that this is something we want to do. And so it happened."

In 1954, Japan sent yet another gift to DC: a 300-year old lantern that sits alongside the tidal basin. The official lighting of the lantern takes place this afternoon at 2:30.

Stephanie Kaye reports...

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