WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will go on Saturday regardless of a potential government shutdown by avoiding National Park Service property, organizers said Friday.
Festival organizers have been determined to preserve the parade after a federal budget official surprised them Wednesday by announcing it would be canceled in the event of a shutdown.
If there is a shutdown, the parade route on Washington’s Constitution Avenue along the National Mall would be shortened, the festival group said Friday. Part of the same road is under Park Service jurisdiction, so the parade would run from 7th Street to 14th Street to avoid crossing into federal territory, which begins at 15th street.
As for why jurisdiction of the same road was divided, “you’ll have to ask Congress,” said National Park Service spokesman Bill Line.
Amid stalled budget negotiations in Congress, the festival group struck a deal with the District of Columbia police force to provide extra support if U.S. Park Police aren’t available due to a shutdown.
“We’re so glad we were able to pull this off,” spokeswoman Danielle Piacente said.
The parade includes 5,000 participants, some traveling from as far away as Japan. Also, 13 marching bands are scheduled to participate, including bands from Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama and New York.
The two-week cherry blossom festival started 99 years ago with a gift of pink and white flowering trees from Japan and now draws over 1 million visitors each year. A Japanese street festival Saturday on Pennsylvania Avenue also would go on as planned in the case of a shutdown.
Other events scheduled for the National Mall would have to be canceled, though, and Park Service officials are still determining whether part of the mall would be blocked off as it was during a 1995 shutdown.
“Let’s hope there’s not going to be a shutdown,” Line said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)