This week’s lingering snowstorm belies the fact that the National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled to begin next week, whether or not the famed Tidal Basin cherry trees blossom on time. The festival dates to 1927, when school children re-enacted the original planting of cherry trees, a gift from the Japanese government, in 1912. Over time, the festival has grown from a day of celebration to two weeks. More than 1.5 million people visit the National Capital Region to admire the blossoms and join in the festivities each year.
For many longtime residents, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is but a blip on the screen of numerous early spring activities. This year, however, Mason District has bragging rights, because Virginia’s 2013 Cherry Blossom Princess hails from the Winterset-Varsity Park neighborhood in Mason District. Jacqueline Marie Regan, daughter of John and Judy Regan, was selected by the Society of Virginia to represent the Commonwealth at this year’s festival. Jacki is a 2011 graduate of W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, and is a sophomore at the University of Michigan, majoring in neuroscience, prior to continuing to medical school. An outstanding scholar-athlete, Jacki also is a competitive figure skater, and performs on UM’s synchronized skating team.
According to her grandmother, Phyllis Regan, Jacki’s ascension to princess took only 19 years. Related to the founding families of Virginia, Phyllis is active in the Society of Virginia and, when her granddaughter was born, decided that, someday, she would be a Cherry Blossom Princess! Phyllis set a goal for Jacki, nurtured and advocated for her, and obviously was proud and delighted when she was selected. In her essay, Jacki noted that “since the day I began wearing little dresses, I have been attending the Virginia State Society events with my grandmother.” Jacki continues, “Though it has been a thought of hers for 19 years, I have come to share in her dream…to participate in this cultural and educational opportunity.”
Jacki’s essay also highlights what may be a familiar modern Virginia family history, especially in Fairfax County. Jacki wrote “the appeal of Virginia is represented by my family: one side who has resided in the state for hundreds of years and the other side who chose Virginia as the place to advance their careers and raise their family.” Amidst lots of pink – suits and dresses, shoes, ties, even M&Ms – I had the privilege of crowning Jacki as Virginia’s Cherry Blossom Princess at a celebratory luncheon at the Army Navy Country Club earlier this month.
Jacki will return from university classes for the traditional Lantern Lighting Ceremony at the Tidal Basin on Sunday, April 7, at 2:30 p.m. The Cherry Blossom Queen will be selected by a spin of the wheel at the Cherry Blossom Grand Ball on April 12. Free events for the Festival include the parade in downtown Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 13, at 10 a.m., followed by the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Congratulations, Princess Jacki!