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Cherry Blossom Festival To Expand For Centennial

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A woman (R) takes pictures of cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Americans celebrating the beauty of Washington's landmark pink cherry blossoms this spring have at heart the tragedies jolting Japan, which gave the trees to the United States. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing, and two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the aging nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. As many as one million people are expected to stream through the Mall esplanade area during the Cherry Blossom Festival from March 26 through April 10. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman (R) takes pictures of cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Americans celebrating the beauty of Washington’s landmark pink cherry blossoms this spring have at heart the tragedies jolting Japan, which gave the trees to the United States. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing, and two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the aging nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. As many as one million people are expected to stream through the Mall esplanade area during the Cherry Blossom Festival from March 26 through April 10. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival are expanding the festivities next year to five weeks, and first lady Michelle Obama will serve as honorary chair of the event marking the 100th anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan.

To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Postal Service has created a cherry blossom centennial stamp that will be issued in March 2012.

Plans for the 2012 festival call for art and history exhibits across the city and the planting of more than 1,000 new cherry trees. Officials behind the springtime event announced plans for the centennial celebration Wednesday. The 16-day festival will be expanded to five weeks beginning March 20.

Officials also are planning a “City in Bloom” campaign for businesses to join the festival with their decorations and lighting.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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