From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Blossoms and Bison

By Lani Gering

Whoa…what is wrong with this weather? I have no clue what it’s going to be by the time this issue hits the streets but it’s in the mid 60’s as I write this and is going to hit 80 degrees in the DMV tomorrow! Pretty wild temps for this area in late February and I’m not complaining as long as a freak freeze doesn’t blow through any time during Cherry Blossom season.

Speaking of which…the Okame cherry trees in the Harbor have been blooming for over a week now. Many of you might remember that the last of the 200 of these trees were planted in the Harbor in 2019 and in these last 4 years they have grown exponentially. They grow about two feet a year and are very desirable for areas that want quick, hardy, spectacular color. They are also more tolerant to the cold than most other types of cherry trees and are early bloomers with flowers lasting up to three weeks. They are earlier than ever this year and are way ahead of National Harbor’s Cherry Blossom Festival that kicks off on March 16 and runs through April 16.

In a region that is known for its cherry blossom displays and celebrations, the trees at National Harbor have quickly become a large draw not only because they are some of the first to blossom, the Harbor Festival is full of celebrations that complement the events that take place in D.C. Information on National Harbor’s Cherry Blossom Festival is in this link.

March and April are both great months to visit the Harbor before the onset of Memorial Day and the beginning of tourist season. One of the newest attractions and also one of my favorite is Spirit Park. You may remember when I wrote about it in my November 2022 column, it had yet to be completed then and we only had access to a photo of a rendering. Until it was complete and I saw the 50 foot by 80 foot American flag flying from the 177 foot 7 inch (this dimension is a tribute to the first Flag Day that was celebrated on June 14, 1777) flagpole did I realize the magnitude of the message of the park. The 13 smaller flags that surround it are representative of the original colonies and the bulk of the elements of Spirit Park reflect historical military/patriotic events. Union Tower – a 17 foot 77/100 inch bell tower – was set to ring daily and to mark significant occasions with patriotic songs of history. I can’t actually attest to the fact that it does indeed ring daily since I haven’t heard it on my visits to the Harbor, but only one way to find out….go check it out.

While I’m as patriotic as the next guy and I love our flag, I really am partial to bison. I am a Wyoming native and this majestic animal adorns our state flag. That being said, the best part of this space are the sculptures of a family of bison created by South Dakota artist John Lopez. Daddy bison is 6 and a half feet tall and weighs in at about 1000 pounds while Mama is a mere 6 feet tall and Baby takes up the slack at 3 feet. I can’t tell you how much I love these three. They are amazing looking in the evening when there is a beautiful sunset and the light reflects off of them.

The park also has an amphitheater with 6 rows (number of white stripes on the flag) of seating and a 50 foot (representing the 50 states) round stage where performances will take place seasonally. When not in use, this is a nice place to just sit and reflect on the message the park represents and to watch the aforementioned sun set on Old Town Alexandria across the river.

When the month of March rolls around I always feel a little better about things…spring is right around the corner and one of my very favorite days of the year happens on the 17th! While I’m not 100% Irish, I have enough leprechaun in me that it just makes me don all of my shamrock laden apparel and consume a Guinness or two. Please join me in spirit on St. Patrick’s Day and give a nod to the Irish in all of us! Welcome Spring!

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