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March 19, 2006|By LORI SEARS

Cherry Blossom Festival

While tomorrow marks the first official day of spring, Saturday marks the true start of the season, as the Cherry Blossom Festival begins in Washington. The annual festival, which runs Saturday through April 9, commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the people of Tokyo to the people of Washington in 1912.

On opening day, visitors can take part in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day and Opening Ceremony at the National Building Museum. Family day will feature various hands-on activities, demonstrations, performances and displays inside the museum's Great Hall. Visitors can learn to create origami, make buildings in an origami city, construct miniature paper gardens, make a cherry blossom fan or a spring scrapbook, see a bonsai display, view a kimono display, see a Japanese floral design display, watch Japanese animation, play video games, watch vegetable and fruit carving (an ancient Japanese art) and more.

The cherry blossom opening ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. at the National Building Museum. The ceremony will include remarks by Washington dignitaries, an introduction of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Goodwill Ambassadors and a performance by Taiko artist Kenny Endo.

The National Building Museum is at 401 F St. N.W., Washington. Free. 202-661-7584, nationalcherryblossomfestival.org or nbm.org.

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