ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. has announced that the 2021 Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival at Branch Brook Park in Newark will be held virtually because of the ongoing conditions created by the pandemic. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the premiere sponsor of the virtual festival.
“The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives, but it has not stopped our magnificent cherry blossoms from blooming. While we continue to endure through this public health crisis, we encourage you to witness this natural wonder of the world come to life this spring through our series of virtual events,” DiVincenzo said. “Residents coming to the park to see the cherry blossoms should wear facemasks and practice social distancing. We are at a crucial time fighting this virus and we can not let our guard down.”
This year’s virtual festival includes the following events:
- The virtual Cherry Blossom 10K can be completed by runners anytime between April 3 and 18. Runners can register at www.runsignup.com. All racers who complete the 10K will receive the commemorative 2020 medal and a long-sleeved race T-shirt.
- Musical performers and cultural presentations regularly enjoyed during Bloomfest will be presented on the Essex County Parks System’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/essexcountyparks/ and Instagram “@essxparks.” Daily videos will present a wide variety of content including historic facts and talks from Branch Brook Park, child-friendly origami crafts, cultural demonstrations from past Bloomfest presenters and live performances.
- With historic walking tours by cell phone, spend the day exploring all 72 tour stops or pick and choose some favorites. One call to 973-433-9047 or a scan of the barcode at each tour stop unlocks a world of park history and horticultural information. This service is free.
- Those who cannot visit the park can view the status of the bloom season on new panoramic cameras set up in the park. These cameras will bring the cherry blossom season onto computer and smartphone screens in real time so that residents can witness the breathtaking vistas. They can be accessed at essexcountyparks.org.
The general public and business community can participate in a fundraising campaign to purchase and plant cherry trees in Branch Brook Park. Each new cherry tree can be purchased for $225 from the Essex County Parks Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit 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 Ave., Newark, NJ 07104. Write “Cherry Blossom Campaign” on the memo line of the check.
Donations are being recognized in a “Cherry Blossom Giving Tree” located at the entrance of the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Donations of $225 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 family of Caroline Bamberger Frank Fuld in 1927. At the height of the original trees’ growth in Branch Brook Park, there were approximately 2,500 cherry trees in the 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. DiVincenzo kicked off an aggressive planting program to strengthen and expand the number of cherry trees. To date, there are more than 5,000 cherry blossoms throughout Branch Brook Park.