Bloom! Your Guide To Branch Brook Park’s 46th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

Newark, NJ – Get ready to frolic amidst 5,200 Cherry Blossom trees in full, glorious bloom. The 46th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival returns April 2-10 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. outlined the schedule of events Friday and welcomed Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ as the Premiere Sponsor.

“The natural beauty of the cherry blossoms has been attracting visitors to the park since they were first planted there in the late 1920s. The festival has helped unify the community, highlighted the benefits of Branch Brook Park and the local neighborhood, and enabled the public to enjoy the blooming trees in a variety of ways,” DiVincenzo said. “We invite the public to come out and enjoy our display of 5,200 trees, which is larger than the national display in Washington, DC, and the most diverse collection in the world,” he added.

“We have an exciting line-up of activities where visitors can 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 adds.

Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival

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. County Executive DiVincenzo kicked off an aggressive planting program to strengthen and expand the number of cherry trees. To date, there are more than 5,000 cherry blossoms throughout Branch Brook Park.

(Photo of Okame trees from Branch Brook Park Alliance FB page)

The 46th 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 2, 2022

Time: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park, Heller Parkway, Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom 10K Run

The Cherry Blossoms provide a beautiful canopy for runners as they make their way through Branch Brook Park. 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. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom 10K Run will be held as follows:

Date: Sunday, April 3, 2022

Time: Registration: 8 a.m.

10K Race: 10 a.m.

Disabled Start: 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 contacting Jacquelyn Matthews at jmatthews@parks.essexcountynj.org. 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 9, 2022

Time: 9 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 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 9, 2022

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 at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. 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. Additional musical performances will be held at the Prudential Concert Grove in the Southern Division of the park. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale. Bloomfest will be as follows:

Date: Sunday, April 10, 2022

Times: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

Main Area: Cherry Blossom Center

Mill Street, Newark, NJ

Second Stage: Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom Talks

These 30-minutes talks will include information about the history of Essex County Branch Brook Park and its signature Cherry Blossom trees. No reservations are needed. The Cherry Blossom Talks will be held as follows:

Dates: Wednesdays, April 6, 13, 20 & 27, 2022

Times: 11 a.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/branch-brook-park.

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. It is sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ and the Branch Brook Park Alliance.

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 $225 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 $225 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.

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