2011 NJ Cherry Blossom Festival Dedicated to Japan

By mark-slade March 26, 2011

2011 Cherry Blossom Festival Dedicated to Japan

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Branch Brook Park Announces 35th Cherry Blossom Festival Events
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., together with the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Branch Brook Park Alliance, announced Thursday the line-up of activities for the 35th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
DiVincenzo spoke yesterday at the Cherry Blossom Visitor’s Center at the park, which is located in Belleville and Newark.
“Branch Brook Park has been put on the map with its 4,300 cherry blossom trees, the largest collection in the world,” said Essex County Parks Director Dan Salvante. “Once again, we’re here to celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossoms in this park.”
Thousands of visitors from throughout the area and around the world converge on the park every April to see the first reddish-white flowers bloom on the trees. Essex County has long sponsored events to coincide with the start of the season. The festival is a point of pride for Belleville, which identifies itself as the “Cherry Blossom Capital of America.”
Salvante announced the festival’s lineup of events, which kicks off on April 4 with the Cherry Blossom Gala hosted by the BBPA at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville.
Other activities include a bike race on April 9, from 7 am to 1 pm and a 1-mile “Fun Run” and 10K Run on April 10, beginning at 8 am.

There’s also a Bagel and Blossom Lecture Series from April 11 to 15, at 8:15 every morning, at the Visitors Center.
“On your way to work you can come here, get a bagel and learn more about the park,” said Salvante.
Also during noontime from April 12 to 14, Trolley Tours with a guided tour will be available throughout the park.
Then on April 16, there will be a photography workshop from 9 am to 1 pm.
The Cherry Blossom Festival culminates on April 17 with Bloomfest happening from 11 am to 5 pm, and featuring cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food and other activities for the whole family to enjoy.
“It’s a great day to be out in the park,” said Salvante.
David Norton, representative of the Aetna insurance company, which is recognized as the premiere sponsor of the park’s family-friendly festival for the second year, expressed the company’s zeal in being part of this endeavor “to be able to support the community and help preserve a very important asset like the park, and so help with improving the health and well-being of the citizens.” According to Norton, “supporting the county is very important to us and we look forward to doing that in the years to come.”
Also present in the press conference was BBPA Executive Director James Lecky, who thanked the county executive “for providing the leadership which has made our partnership so worthwhile. I really can’t express enough how important this has been, not only to our organization, to the county, but to every citizen of that county, to have a world-class park, a world-class collection of cherry blossom trees in our backyard,” said Lecky. “I think it’s an asset of the community to have 4,300 trees planted last year. It’s only going to get better over time, to see these trees grow, to watch this process happen. This would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of the county executive director and the board of freeholders who’ve been incredible partners in supporting our work.”
Essex County Sherriff Armando Fontoura was also there to talk about the park, in which he proudly said, “This is one of the safest parks in the state of New Jersey.”
Board of Chosen Freeholders Vice President Ralph Caputo also expressed, “Because of the safety and the beauty that has taken place with all the cooperative efforts, I think if anything led to a renaissance in this county, it’s through the park system.”
“The cherry blossom tree is symbolic of our partnership with Japan,” said Anibal Ramos, a Newark councilman. “In light of the recent tragedy that took place there, this year we have a lot to celebrate and remember.” He also added, “The Cherry Blossom Festival does a lot for this community in terms of attracting visitors and promoting our local businesses, and for this we’d like to thank Joe for his leadership as well as the Board of Chosen Freeholders.”
“The cherry blossoms at Branch Brook Park has truly become a destination,” said DiVincenzo. “So they not only talk about the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., now they talk about the Essex County Branch Brook Park.
“We’re dedicating this festival to the people of Japan. These cherry blossoms originated from Japan so we wanted to be able to raise money for them and give back.”
Fifty percent of the proceeds generated from the Cherry Blossom Festival lapel pins will be donated to the Red Cross for Japan. The pins cost $5 each and will be sold at the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center during the first two weeks of April and throughout all festival events. Donations will also be received by the Center for the benefit of the people of Japan.
For more information about the festival events and how to make a donation, visit branchbrookpark.org.