Winter threatens blooms for Cherry Blossom Festival
Philadelphia's annual Cherry Blossom Festival might not see blooms in time for this year's Sakura Sunday because of a long, bitter winter.
Every year, Philadelphia celebrates spring and Japanese culture through the Cherry Blossom Festival, with events spanning the first couple weeks of April. But this year, the festival's main event may be celebrated without the presence of the blooms for the first time, thanks (or, rather, no thanks) to a long, late winter.
Cherry Blossom festivals are celebrated across the area, with the National festival located in Washington, D.C., to recognize the pink flowers on Japanese cherry trees planted along the Potomac River. In Philadelphia, the cherry trees trees at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park serve as a backdrop for Sakura Sunday, which takes place April 13 this year. Other events in Center City and Chestnut Hill begin next week and feature sushi classes, karaoke contests, film screenings and even a 5K run.
However, cherry blossoms may not bloom in time for this year's numerous events. The National Parks Service estimates that cherry trees will bloom between April 8 and 12, right before Sakura Sunday. But the service also warned that the unseasonably cold weather could delay the blooms.
Aaron Dilliplane of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia agreed that the cold weather has affected the blooms.
"If it continues there is a possibility that they will not arrive in time for Sakura Sunday," Dilliplane pointed out. The trees begin blooming after consecutive days with temperatures more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Dilliplane.
"Last year, though not as cold or as long, the weather did delay the blooming until April, but they were right on time for Sakura Sunday," Dilliplane said, adding that no winter has lasted as long as to delay the blooms past Sakura Sunday, although warmer winters have caused the trees to blossom early. The latest bloom in the past 25 years was 1993's April 11 peak. This year, the late bloom could break a new record while disappointing thousands of festival-goers looking to see the first flowerings of spring.
However, a few warmer days in the next two weeks could provide hope that the tree flowers will arrive just in time to welcome the spring.
Check out out photos from last year's Cherry Blossom Festival: