Petalpalooza at the District Wharf

Image courtesy of Chris Vitale

By Christopher Vitale

The National Cherry Blossom Festival hosted its Petalpalooza event at the District Wharf on Saturday, attracting university students from across D.C. Visitors swarmed the streets of the area to get in on the action of the full day celebration which featured numerous cherry blossom-related activities along the waterfront.

The District Wharf is a neighborhood and shopping/dining attraction nestled against the Potomac River. Upon its opening in October 2017, the Wharf has brought thriving businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues, and residential complexes to southwest D.C. It features a mile-long boardwalk, and stemming out into the river are three piers between which lies a boating marina.

To ring in the Petalpalooza festival, the boardwalk adorned pink tents, banners, and lanterns as well as flowery decorations to transform the Wharf scene into a spring-themed spectacle.

Activities on the site began at 12 p.m. with live music performances in three separate locations. The Chase Main Stage on the District Pier kicked off the music with Americana Folk-Rock from “The 19th Street Band” and culminated with the Alternative Rock group, “Broke Royals,” at 7:15 p.m. Other festivities on the District Pier included a Blossom Bar offering drinks such as “Josh Cellars” and “Fleurs de Prairie.”

The Transit Pier hosted the Centennial Stage where fans of the swing era danced to the jazzy group, “Blue Sky 5,” at 12:45 p.m., while the cover bands “Superflydisco,” “Herr Metal,” and “White Ford Bronco” performed music from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s respectively.

Additionally, guests visited the roller rink featured at this pier, the large outdoor yard game stations, the Festival Information Center, and two tents selling official National Cherry Blossom Festival merchandise. Once the sun had set, the Wharf fire pit was set ablaze for guests to roast marshmallows and assemble s’mores to their delight.

The Recreation Pier provided an acoustic lounge featuring solo music performers, an arts and crafts station where guests enjoyed making t-shirts, and a gardening tent from District Hardware & Bike. Swings wrapped with strings of rosy blossoms attracted long lines of guests eager to take their turns and capture artsy photos, and a giant Jenga station allowed visitors to challenge each other to the beloved stacking game in huge proportions.

Adjacent to the boardwalk, Wharf Street included the Pearl Street Stage upon which the “Matsukawaya” Japanese Wagashi Masters performed, thus honoring the history of the original cherry blossom trees as a gift from Japan to D.C. to commemorate the friendship and alliance between the two nations.

Visitors also participated in making colorful spin art powered by rotating bicycle pedals, greeting strolling sports mascots, including Slapshot from the Washington Capitals and the Racing Presidents from the Washington Nationals, and watched the Blossom Balloon Artists bend balloons into pink flower themed art.

Restaurants and stores along the boardwalk also joined in on the celebration by decorating their windows and storefronts with pink designs and flowery stickers. Some even offered cherry blossom inspired foods and drinks.

Once all of the daytime festivities had concluded, Petalpalooza presented its main event at 8:30 p.m: a dazzling fireworks display set to synchronized music on the Potomac. The display was powered by the Pyrotecnico fireworks company, and visitors marveled at the reflections of the vibrant, shimmering explosives dancing on the surface of the water. It was a fitting conclusion to such a colorful D.C. celebration.

The next major event for the National Cherry Blossom Festival will be the annual Parade on Constitution Avenue starting at 10 a.m. this Saturday. It will feature giant helium balloons, marching bands, themed floats, and live music entertainment.

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