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Washington in Bloom

Washington in Bloom
April 1, 2000

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Rudy: "If you're willing to fight the throngs of tourists, there's a magnificent show underway in the nation's capital right now: the annual blossoming of the cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. The cherry blossoms bring more tourists into Washington than any other annual event. Here with details is Michelle Kholos with this week's Culture Watch."

Michelle: "Rudy, I know that you've enjoyed the cherry blossoms for years, but do you know the history of the trees?"

Rudy: "They were a gift from Japan."

Michelle: "They were. Tokyo's Mayor presented Washington with 3,000 trees in 1912 as a token of national friendship between the two countries. But actually, it took a quarter-century of relentless crusading by a woman named Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore. Upon returning to Washington from her first visit to Japan in 1885, Mrs. Scidmore approached the Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds with the proposal that cherry trees be planted along the soon-to-be reclaimed Potomac waterfront. But her request fell on deaf ears."

Rudy: "But we have the trees now? What happened?"

Michelle: "After 24 years of unsuccessful campaigning, Mrs. Scidmore decided to raise the money to buy the trees herself. She sent a letter off to the new First Lady, Helen Taft, explaining her plans. Mrs. Taft, who herself had lived in Japan for a time, loved the idea and saw that it got done. Of course, there were other problems. The first trees sent over were infested with insects, Nematodes and other diseases, but once that was taken care of the trees were planted and generations of Americans have enjoyed their blossoms every spring."

Rudy: "There's also the parade."

Michelle: "Yes. This year it's Saturday the 8th of April. There will be lavish floats from across the country, gigantic helium balloons, international performance groups and some of the country's finest marching bands."


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