NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. outlined the schedule of events for the 46th annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival on Friday, March 18. The festival, which will be held from Saturday, April 2, to Sunday, April 10, and is returning from a two-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, highlights the blooming season of the 5,200 cherry blossom trees. The executive also welcomed Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ as the premiere sponsor.
“The natural beauty of the cherry blossoms has been attracting visitors to the park since they were first planted there in the late 1920s. The festival has helped unify the community, highlighted the benefits of Branch Brook Park and the local neighborhood, and enabled the public to enjoy the blooming trees in a variety of ways,” DiVincenzo said. “We invite the public to come out and enjoy our display of 5,200 trees, which is larger than the national display in Washington, D.C., and the most diverse collection in the world.”
“We are proud to support and it’s an even greater privilege to again be a part of the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival, an event that will draw thousands of people from all over to enjoy the gift of spring,” Horizon BCBSNJ Director of Government Affairs Sarah E. Jones said. “If this is your first time at the festival, this is the year to see the breathtaking display of nature that makes Branch Brook Park the most beautiful place and largest bloom in the nation.”
“The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival brings a lot of visitors to our community each year and spurs economic growth as well. We look forward to being able to experience this festival in person after not being able to do so,” Belleville Mayor Michael Melham said.
The 46th annual Cherry Blossom Festival includes the following events:
- Cherry Blossom Challenge annual bike race on Saturday, April 2, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Branch Brook Park off Heller Parkway. 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. Various races occur throughout the morning, with the first race at 7 a.m. and the last race at noon. Registration fees apply to racers. It’s free to enter the park and watch.
- Cherry Blossom 10K Run on Sunday, April 3, at Branch Brook Park’s Cherry Blossom Center off Mill Street. A portion of the race proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Online registration can be done at www.compuscore.com. Same day registration begins at 8 a.m.; advanced registration is recommended. Race starts at 10 a.m. It’s free to enter the park and watch.
- 1-Mile Fun Run and Walk on Saturday, April 9, at Branch Brook Park’s Prudential Concert Grove. Children are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. Schools and groups must register in advance by contacting Jacquelyn Matthews at [email protected] This is a free event. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the race at 10 a.m.
- Essex County Family Day on Saturday, April 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Branch Brook Park’s Prudential Concert Grove. The public is encouraged to come out and enjoy an afternoon of family-fun with a variety of events, including live performances, children’s activities and more. Bring your own picnic lunch or purchase food from vendors who will be on site. Admission is free but food and other merchandise will be for sale.
- Bloomfest on Sunday, April 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Branch Brook Park’s Cherry Blossom Center and Prudential Concert Grove. A packed schedule of events includes cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food and more at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Winners from the “Why My Essex County Park is Important to Me” essay contest for fourth-graders and cherry blossom poster contest for sixth-graders will be recognized on stage. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale.
- Cherry Blossom Talks on Wednesdays, April 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 11 a.m. at Branch Brook Park’s Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. These 30-minutes talks will include information about the history of the park and its signature cherry blossom trees. No reservations are needed.
- Historic tours by cell phone can be accessed by cell phone. Spend the day exploring all 72 tour stops or pick and choose your 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.
For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/branch-brook-park.
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 from the Essex County Parks Foundation, a 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. Write “Cherry Blossom Campaign” on the memo line of the check.