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36th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival

New Jersey news from Eyewitness News
March 26, 2012 12:52:21 PM PDT
The 36th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival in Essex County Branch Brook Park takes place this weekend.

The festival begins Saturday, April 7th with the Cherry Blossom Challenge Bicycle Race and concludes on Sunday, April 22nd with Bloomfest, a day-long festival hosted by Essex County.

The cherry blossom display in Essex County Branch Brook Park is larger than the national display in Washington, DC and is the most diverse collection of cherry blossom varieties in the world. Aetna is sponsoring the Cherry Blossom Festival for the third consecutive year.

"You're invited to Essex County Branch Brook Park to witness the most diverse collection of Cherry Blossom Trees that is even larger than the national display in Washington, DC. The blossoming trees create a picturesque setting that transforms Branch Brook Park into a stunning spring fantasyland. We invite you to come out and experience this natural wonder," DiVincenzo said. "Even though Mother Nature brought spring-like weather early this year, we look forward to the public joining us for a fun-filled month of activity in our nation's first county park," he added.

"The Branch Brook Park Alliance has been privileged to work in partnership with Essex County on the first comprehensive restoration in the park's history, and we join in welcoming visitors from around the globe to enjoy its many delights during this beautiful season of bloom," said Barbara Bell Coleman, Co-Chair of the Alliance Board of Trustees.

The 36th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival includes the following events:

Cell Phone Tours
Visitors to Essex County Branch Brook Park can enjoy a self-guided tour by dialing 973-433-9047 and following the prompts or by using their Smart Phone to scan the bar codes at each location to connect to a short history of the park. This new addition to the festival will be available from April 1 to 30. There is no charge for the cell phone tour.

Cherry Blossom Challenge Annual Bike Race
Race through Branch Brook Park in the Cherry Blossom Challenge, a competitive New Jersey tradition, or cheer on the cyclists while enjoying a day in the fresh, spring air. The race is an official NJBA event and a 2012 Garden State Cup event. Various races occur throughout the morning, with the first race at 7 a.m. and the last race at 12 Noon. Registration fees apply to racers. It's free to enter the park and watch. For information, please visit www.essexcountynj.org. The Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race will be held as follows:
Date: Saturday, April 7, 2012
Time: 7 a.m. to 12 Noon
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Heller Parkway
Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom Festival Fundraiser
Cheer on the New Jersey Devils as they take on the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center and help raise money for the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival. Tickets are $45 for balcony seating and $75 for lower level seating and include a $10 food and beverage card. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the festival. The Cherry Blossom Festival Fundraiser will be held as follows:
Date: Saturday, April 7, 2012
Time: 3 p.m.
Place: Prudential Center
Mulberry Street
Newark, NJ

Yes! In My Backyard Lecture
Essex County Branch Brook Park was developed in 1895 and was the first county park created in the United States. Its creation was part of a nationwide movement to create open spaces for preservation and public enjoyment. NJIT Professor Neil Maher will discuss the important place in history that Branch Brook Park holds and the emergence of the urban park movement. This is a free program. Yes! In May Backyard Lecture will be held as follows:
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Time: 4 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Welcome Center
Near Mill Street
Newark, NJ

1-Mile Fun Run and Walk
Celebrate the arrival of spring and get fit with your family or friends. Children are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. This is the first time the event will be held in Branch Brook Park's Southern Division in the newly renovated Prudential Concert Grove area. This is a free event. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt. The Fun Run and Walk will be held as follows:
Date: Saturday, April 14, 2012
Time: 9 a.m. Registration
10 a.m. Race
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove
Newark, NJ

Pride of Essex Community Picnic
The public is encouraged to come out and enjoy an afternoon of family-fun with a variety of events including a fishing derby, carnival games, music and other entertainment, and food. Bring your own picnic lunch or purchase food from vendors who will be on site and enjoy the picturesque views overlooking the lake. Admission is free but food and other merchandise will be for sale. The Community Picnic will be held as follows:
Date: Saturday, April 14, 2012
Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove
Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom Trolley Tours
Learn about the history and landscape of Essex County Branch Brook Park in a very special cherry blossom season tour. Tours leave on the hour from the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center and last approximately 45 minutes. Admission is $5 and reservations are required. For information, call 973-268-3520. The Trolley Tours will be held as follows:
Dates: Saturday, April 14 to Saturday, April 21, 2012
Times: Sunday to Friday from 12 Noon to 4 p.m.
Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Welcome Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom 10K Run
Run through the cherry tree groves in this USATF-sanctioned race that includes a competitive 10K Run and a Race for the Disabled. A portion of the race proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Fees for the 10K Run are $18 if registration is submitted by March 30th, $16 for USATF-NJ members and $20 for registrations made after March 30th. It's free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom 10K Run will be held as follows:
Date: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Time: Registration: 8 a.m.
10K Race: 10 a.m.
Race for the Disabled: 10:10 a.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

Bloomfest
Enjoy a family day in the pink park! A packed schedule of events includes cultural demonstrations, children's activities, live music, a crafter's marketplace, food and more. Winners from the "Why My Essex County Park is Important to Me" essay contest for 4th graders and "Cherry Blossom Poster Contest" for 6th graders will be recognized on stage. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale. Bloomfest will be as follows:
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2012
Times: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

History, driving directions, a complete list of activities and a web cam where the public can monitor the cherry trees for the peak of the bloom season can be accessed by visiting www.essexcountynj.org and clicking on the Cherry Blossom 2012 logo at the top of the home page. More information can also be obtained by calling 973-268-3500.

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Branch Brook Park Alliance. It is sponsored by Aetna and Prudential.

Cherry Tree Planting Campaign
The general public and business community can participate in a fundraising campaign to purchase and plant Cherry Trees in Essex County Branch Brook Park. Each new Cherry Tree can be purchased for $250 from the Essex County Parks Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible, checks can be made out to "Essex County Parks Foundation" and mailed to the Essex County Parks Foundation, 115 Clifton Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104. Please write "Cherry Blossom Campaign" on the memo line of the check. Through this campaign and an aggressive planting program initiated by the County Executive, the number of cherry trees in Branch Brook Park has grown to 4,300.

Donations are being recognized in a "Cherry Blossom Giving Tree" located at the entrance of the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Donations of $250 are recognized with a leaf on the Giving Tree and donations of $1,000 or more are recognized with special plaques on the Giving Tree wall. Donors can choose to have their name inscribed on the Giving Tree or make the contribution in memory of a loved one.

Many of the original Cherry Trees planted in Branch Brook Park were donated to the Essex County Park System by the Bamberger and Mrs. Felix Fuld family in 1927. At its height, there were about 2,500 Cherry Trees in Branch Brook Park. According to the Branch Brook Park Alliance, the original Cherry Trees began to die because of old age and, in 2006, it was determined the original collection had diminished significantly. Essex County's original Cherry Trees are more than 85 years old, which is 10 years longer than the average lifespan. As the trees get older, they stop blooming and eventually decay.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, a miniature golf course, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Branch Brook Park was created in 1895 and is the first park in Essex County's system. At 359.72 acres, it is the largest county park in Essex.

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