Essex County kicks off its 34th annual Cherry Blossom Festival this Saturday, April 10 in a rejuvenated Branch Brook Park.
First up is the Cherry Blossom Challenge, a series of competitive bike races through the park. You’ve got to register to compete (all the details are here) but anyone can enter the park and watch for free. The races begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday and finish at 1 p.m. along the park’s Heller Parkway. On Sunday, the park will host a competitive 10K run, a 1-mile children’s fun run and a race for the disabled. Applications to run can be found here. The fun run is at 9 a.m., the 10K starts at 10 a.m. and the race for the disabled at 10:10 a.m.
The county has already planted 4,000 new cherry trees and has announced plans for $2 million of improvements to the park, which sits on the border of Belleville and Newark. According to Essex County, the park now more trees than Washington, D.C. and the has the greatest variety of cherry trees. Work on the park has been funded through a series of state and county grants, and Aetna contributed $50,000 to support this year’s events. Branch Brook Park was the first park to be created in Essex County’s system, in 1895 and the original cherry trees were planted in 1927.
“Since we discovered our Cherry Tree groves were in a state of decline several years ago, we have planted more than 4,000 new cherry trees to restore and expand this natural treasure in Essex County Branch Brook Park,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. “Working with the Branch Brook Park Alliance, we have expanded the number of trees so the magnificent canopy can be enjoyed throughout the park from Belleville to Newark’s Central Ward. We invite the public to visit Branch Brook to experience the most diverse collection of Cherry Trees in the country and enjoy the diverse schedule of activities that offer something for all ages.”
“Bloomfest”, the festival’s main celebration, will be held Sunday, April 18, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events will range from cultural demonstrations, to children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food, and more. Admission is free.
Here’s a sampling of what else is in store during the festival.
The Branch Brook Park Alliance will hold its Cherry Blossom Gala at Nanina’s In The Park restaurant in Belleville on Tuesday April 13 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $500 and $1,000 and all the information on the gala and other Branch Brook Park Alliance events is here.
Shutterbugs may be interested in three workshops by the Essex County Nature Photographers. You can learn to photograph cherry blossoms on April 17, irises on May 22 and roses on June 19. The workshops begin at 9 a.m. at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center on Mill Street in Newark, and are open to photographers of all levels. The fee is $35 per session or $90 for the series. Space is limited, so call (973) 239-7072 or e-mail [email protected] to reserve.
The festival’s final event will be a 5K race/walk sponsored by the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure on Sunday, April 25 at 8 a.m. For more information or to register, please call (908) 277-2904 or visit Komen North Jersey.