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Cherry Blossom Festival scrambles to keep parade on track in face of shutdown

It’s that time of year, when throngs of visitors descend on Washington D.C. to admire fragrant blooms, pose serenely in front of the nation’s monuments, and enjoy marching bands and ornate floats.

But organizers now are scrambling to keep the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s signature parade on track in the face of a looming government shutdown.

A White House official warned Wednesday that a government shutdown would mean the cancellation of the annual parade, scheduled for 10 AM on Saturday – the day after a funding deadline for congressional negotiators.

A festival organizer pushed back Wednesday, saying that all is not yet lost for would-be parade goers, even if a deal to keep the government’s lights on falls through.

“There’s a lot of speculation out there that the event would definitely be canceled if the government shuts down, but that’s not the case at this point,” said festival spokesperson Danielle Piacente, who added that the event’s staff are “exploring every avenue possible” to make the show go on even if a funding gap occurs.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization primarily funded by private sponsors, so funding for the event itself would not be in jeopardy because of the budget standoff. “It’s not a money question,” Piacente said.

But support from the National Park Service, the D.C. government, and local law enforcement could be impacted by a shutdown, possibly derailing the parade if safety, logistics, and cleanup plans can’t be executed.

While organizers are “realistic” about the likelihood that the parade will go as planned, they point out that many other events that are part of the two-week-long Cherry Blossom celebration – including a Japanese street festival and a free public concert – will not be affected by a shutdown at all.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is expected to draw over a million visitors this year, providing the D.C. region with an influx of tourism dollars and visitors curious to learn more about their nation’s capitol.

Luckily for those tourists, the cherry blossoms themselves are in dazzling bloom, without regard for the standoff on Capitol Hill.

Which, due the fact that the D.C. government is expected to suspend trash pickup in the event of a shutdown, will hopefully make the nation’s Capitol a bit less… unfragrant.