The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off tomorrow, commemorating Japan’s gift of 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to the city 99 years ago. The Festival is a grand two-week affair that draws over a million people annually, with a diverse range of events all across the District.
Key to the success of this yearly event for the last decade has been NCBF President Diana Mayhew, who took over the helm in 2000 as Executive Director and then in 2007 as President. When she arrived, the Festival was an all-volunteer organization (begun in 1927) and its vision was to ensure that there was year-round, consistent staffing to ensure the growth, quality, and consistency of events. “We also help show the world that Washington, DC is synonymous with spring,” Mayhew told me. “There was a need to provide consistent services to residents and visitors interested in attending Festival events and there was no central communication.” The Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID) donated the salary of an Executive Director for three years until the Festival got up on its feet, implementing fundraising and sponsorships to support itself and the cost of programming, which is offered free to the public.