NEWARK, NJ — The 41st annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival will be held Saturday, April 8, to Sunday, April 23, at Branch Brook Park. This festival highlights the blooming season of the 5,000 cherry blossom trees in Essex County.
“Nature does nurture, so there never is a bad day in Branch Brook Park. There is something magical when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and they really become the incandescent stars of the landscape,” Branch Brook Park Alliance Co-chairwoman Barbara Bell Coleman said in a press release.
The festival includes the following events:
- 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 — specifically, Saturday, April 8 — 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, though it is free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race will be held as follows:
- Cherry Blossom 10K Run: Run through the historic cherry tree groves in this race on Sunday, April 9, beginning at 10 a.m. A portion of the race proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Online registration can be done at www.compuscore.com. Same day registration begins in the park at 8 a.m., though advanced registration is recommended. It is free to enter the park and watch.
- Cherry Blossom Guided Tours: Have knowledgeable guides take you on a 45-minute journey and point out more than 120 years of history hidden within Branch Brook Park’s structure and design. Tours leave from the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center daily from Sunday, April 16, through Saturday, April 22, at 11 a.m., Noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Transportation around the park is provided. Tickets are charged and can be reserved by calling 973-433-7469. Tickets also will be available for purchase in the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center on days the tours are being held. Space is limited. For group or private tour bookings, call 973-433-7469.
- 1-Mile Fun Run and Walk: Celebrate the arrival of spring and get fit with your family or friends on Saturday, April 22, with an 8 a.m. registration and 10 a.m. race. Children are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. Schools and groups must register in advance by calling 973-268-3500. This is a free event. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt.
- Essex County Family Day: The public is encouraged to come out on Saturday, April 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and enjoy an afternoon of family fun with a variety of events including live performances, children’s activities, a fishing derby and more. 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.
- Bloomfest: Enjoy a family day in the pink park on Sunday, April 23, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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. Additional musical performances will be held at the Prudential Concert Grove. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale.
- Historic Tours by Cell Phone: This free, self-guided historic walking tour can be accessed by cell phone or smartphone. 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 bar code at each tour stop unlocks a world of park history and horticultural information. History, driving directions, a complete list of activities and a webcam 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 link. More information can also be obtained by calling 973-433-9047.