Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival Runs April 9-24

by The Village Green
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Cherry Blossom

The 40th annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival will be the biggest ever this spring as 5,000 cherry trees in Branch Brook Park — an additional 1,000 were planted last year — bloom together for the first time amidst a month-long schedule of events.

The festival kicks off on Saturday, April 9 with a day-long schedule of competitive bike races and concludes on Sunday, April 24 with Bloomfest, a community and cultural fair.

(By the way, you can watch the progress of the trees live via the Bloom Cam here.)

“The natural beauty of the cherry blossoms has been attracting visitors to the park since they were first planted there in the late 1920s” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo said. “This year, our display will be even more dynamic because it will be the first time that all 5,000 cherry trees will blossom during the same season since our aggressive planting and expansion program was initiated.”

“We invite the public to visit the Park and participate in the line-up of activities that we have planned to celebrate Spring. Admire the beauty of the trees, learn about the history of our Parks System and engage in Japanese cultural demonstrations. The blossoming trees create a pink and white canopy that is perfect for picnics, photographs and simple enjoyment,” DiVincenzo said.

The 40th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom 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 in the fresh, spring air. 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. The Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race will be held as follows:

Date:               Saturday, April 9, 2016

Time:              7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Place:             Essex County Branch Brook Park

                                                Heller Parkway

                                                Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom 10K Run

Run through the historic cherry tree groves in this race that is sanctioned by the USATF. 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. Disabled Run starts at10:10 a.m. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom 10K Run will be held as follows:

Date:               Sunday, April 10, 2016

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 

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. 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. The Fun Run and Walk will be held as follows:

Date:              Saturday, April 16, 2016

                        Time:             8 a.m. Registration

                                                10 a.m. Race

                        Place:            Essex County Branch Brook Park

                                                Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

                                                Newark, NJ

Essex County Family Day

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, 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. The Family Day will be held as follows:

 

Date:              Saturday, April 16, 2016

                        Time:             11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

                        Place:            Essex County Branch Brook Park

                                                Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

                                                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 24, 2016

Times:           11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Place:             Essex County Branch Brook Park

Cherry Blossom Center

                                                Mill Street

                                                Newark, NJ

 

Cherry Blossom Guided Tours

Have knowledgeable guides take you on a 45-minute journey and point out over 120 years of history hidden within Essex County Branch Brook Park’s structure and design. Tours leave from the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center daily at 11 a.m., 12 Noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Transportation around the park is provided. Tickets are $5 person 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, call973-433-7469. The Trolley Tours will be held as follows:

 

Dates:             Sunday, April 17th through Saturday, April 23rd

Times:                        11 a.m., 12 Noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Place:                         Essex County Branch Brook Park

Cherry Blossom Welcome Center

Mill Street

Newark, NJ

 

Historic Tours by Cell Phone

This free, self-guided historic walking tour can be accessed by cell phone or smart 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 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 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 link. More information can also be obtained by calling 973-433-9047.

 

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. It is sponsored by Aetna.

 

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.

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.

 

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 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, 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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