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Cherry blossoms expert explains their D.C. history at Library of Congress Apr. 3

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Ann McClellan, author of the National Cherry Blossom Festival's gorgeous official book, will discuss and sign it on April 3 at the Library of Congress where two of the century-old original trees still thrive.

McClellan will sign her book "Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival" (National Geographic), filled with exquisite photographs by Ron Blunt, from 11:30 A.M. until noon.

Then, she'll talk about the history of the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees as a symbol of friendship from the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C.

This year's blooms, despite the long, harsh winter, are right on schedule for the festival that continues through April 13. Peak blooms are expected April 8-12. More than a million people are expected, as usual, for Washington's "greatest springtime celebration."

The National Cherry Blossom Festival began in 1934, but this isn't its 80th anniversary. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and World War Two caused a suspension. (Japan commanded its kamikaze suicide aviators to "fall like beautiful cherry petals after a short life.") The festival resumed in 1947, and in 1949 became a three-day song and dance fest.

"The Festival has grown and evolved -- from its beginning on just one afternoon to today's multiweek extravaganza of events, performances, and activities celebrating spring," McClellan wrote in the book, "and it will continue to keep pace with the changing possibilities and expectations of future generations."

Her free talk is just one highlight of the current festival. Another: six Japanese exhibits at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries. (Author McClellan has held executive positions at the Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund, and George Washington University Law School, among others.)

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade® April 12 features performances by four-time GRAMMY® winning R&B/gospel singer Regina Belle, and by pop star Aaron Carter. For the full schedule of events, click here.

Although only about 100 of the original trees survive, they have many successors. Two of the original trees -- one gloriously robust and the other propped up by a crutch -- are behind the Library's majestic Jefferson Building, site of McClellan's talk.

For more info: "Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival" (National Geographic) by Ann McClellan, with photographs by Ron Blunt. Free discussion and book signing by Ann McClellan, April 3, 11:30 A.M.-1 P.M., Library of Congress, www.loc.gov, Thomas Jefferson Building, Whittall Pavilion, Ground Floor, 10 First Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. Library of Congress Asian Division website, www.loc.gov/rr/asian. National Cherry Blossom Festival, www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org, 877-44-BLOOM.

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