04 Apr ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR 43rd ANNUAL ESSEX COUNTY CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ Returns as Premiere Festival Sponsor

Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. outlined the schedule of events for the 43rd annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival on Thursday, April 4th. The festival, which will be held from Saturday, April 6th to Sunday, April 14th, highlights the blooming season of the 5,000 Cherry Blossom trees. The Executive also welcomed Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ as the Premiere Sponsor.

“The natural beauty of the cherry blossoms has been attracting visitors to the park since they were first planted there in the late 1920s. The festival has helped unify the community, highlighted the benefits of Branch Brook Park and the local neighborhood, and enabled the public to enjoy the blooming trees in a variety of ways,” DiVincenzo said. “We invite the public to come out and enjoy our display of 5,000 trees, which is larger than the national display in Washington, DC, and the most diverse collection in the world,” he added.

“We have an exciting line-up of activities where visitors can admire the beauty of the trees, learn about the history of our Parks System and engage in Japanese cultural demonstrations. The blossoming trees create a pink and white canopy that is perfect for picnics, photographs and simple enjoyment,” the Executive said. “We also want to welcome Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ as our premiere sponsor. The support we receive from our corporate neighbors is instrumental in helping us stage activities that highlight the natural beauty of our parks and engage the community,” he added.

“We are honored to join with Essex County to present this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival. A mission of Frederick Law Olmsted was creating a public place that could provide people with physical and mental exercise. Horizon believes in those principles and that’s exactly what this park and this festival mean,” said Kevin P. Conlin, CEO, Chairman and President of Horizon BCBSNJ.

“So many people come to the park at this time of year. This is an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. We encourage people to come out and see for themselves how beautiful and safe the park is,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

“Nothing compares to the beauty of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Branch Brook Park at this time of year,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “What is special about the Cherry Blossoms are the many varieties that can be found in Branch Brook,” Freeholder Len Luciano said.

“This festival brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors, provides a boost to the local economy and gives residents the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the park,” Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos said. “We are grateful to the County Executive’s leadership and dedication to the park. We are proud that Belleville is known as the Cherry Blossom Capitol of the World because of it,” Belleville Mayor Michael Melham said.

“The Cherry Blossoms are an incredible gift to the people of New Jersey. It’s a great opportunity to get outside and welcome the arrival of spring,” Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne said.

The 43rd Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival includes the following events:

Cherry Blossom Challenge Annual Bike Race

Race through Branch Brook Park in the Cherry Blossom Challenge, a competitive New Jersey tradition, or cheer on the cyclists while enjoying a day in the fresh, spring air. Various races occur throughout the morning, with the first race at 7 a.m. and the last race at 12 Noon. Registration fees apply to racers. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race will be held as follows:

                           Date: Saturday, April 6, 2019

                           Time: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

                           Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                           Heller Parkway

                           Newark, NJ

                           Cherry Blossom 10K Run

The Cherry Blossoms provide a beautiful canopy for runners as they make their way through Branch Brook Park. A portion of the race proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Online registration can be done at  HYPERLINK “http://www.compuscore.com” www.compuscore.com. Same day registration begins at 8 a.m. Advanced registration is recommended. Race starts at 10 a.m. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom 10K Run will be held as follows:

                            Date: Sunday, April 7, 2019

                            Time: Registration: 8 a.m.

                            10K Race: 10 a.m.

                            Disabled Start: 10:10 a.m.

                            Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                            Cherry Blossom Center

                             Mill Street

                             Newark, NJ

                             1-Mile Fun Run and Walk

Celebrate the arrival of spring and get fit with your family or friends. Children are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. Schools and groups must register in advance by contacting Jacquelyn Matthews at jmatthews@parks.essexcountynj.org. This is a free event. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt. The Fun Run and Walk will be held as follows:

                              Date: Saturday, April 13, 2019

                              Time: 9 a.m. Registration

                              10 a.m. Race

                              Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                              Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

                              Newark, NJ

                              Essex County Family Day

The public is encouraged to come out and enjoy an afternoon of family-fun with a variety of events including live performances, children’s activities, a fishing derby and more. Bring your own picnic lunch or purchase food from vendors who will be on site and enjoy the picturesque views overlooking the lake. The Chris Clark Bike Show will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The fishing derby begins at 12 noon; awards will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free but food and other merchandise will be for sale. The Family Day will be held as follows:

                              Date: Saturday, April 13, 2019

                              Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

                              Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                              Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

                              Newark, NJ

                              Bloomfest

Enjoy a family day in the pink park! A packed schedule of events includes cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food and more at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Winners from the “Why My Essex County Park is Important to Me” essay contest for 4th graders will be recognized on stage. Additional musical performances will be held at the Prudential Concert Grove in the Southern Division of the park. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale. Bloomfest will be as follows:

                               Date: Sunday, April 14, 2019

                               Times: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

                               Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                               Main Area: Cherry Blossom Center

                               Mill Street, Newark, NJ

                               Second Stage: Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove

                               Newark, NJ

                              Cherry Blossom Guided Tours

Have knowledgeable guides take you on a 45-minute journey and point out the history hidden within Essex County Branch Brook Park’s structure and design. Tours leave from the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Transportation around the park is provided. Tickets are $8 person. Reservations are required and can be made at essexcountyparks.org. The Trolley Tours will be held as follows:

                              Dates: April 18, 19, 20, 22, 26 & 27, 2019

                              Times: 10 a.m., 11 a.m. & 12 Noon

                              Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park

                              Cherry Blossom Welcome Center

                              Mill Street

                              Newark, NJ

                              Historic Tours by Cell Phone

This free, self-guided historic walking tour can be accessed by cell phone or smart phone. Spend the day exploring all 72 tour stops or pick and choose your favorites. One call to 973-433-9047 or a scan of the bar code at each tour stop unlocks a world of park history and horticultural information.

History, driving directions, a complete list of activities and a web cam where the public can monitor the cherry trees for the peak of the bloom season can be accessed by visiting  HYPERLINK “http://www.essexcountynj.org/branch-brook-park” www.essexcountynj.org/branch-brook-park.

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. It is sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ and the Branch Brook Park Alliance.

Cherry Tree Planting Campaign

The general public and business community can participate in a fundraising campaign to purchase and plant Cherry Trees in Essex County Branch Brook Park. Each new Cherry Tree can be purchased for $225 from the Essex County Parks Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible, checks can be made out to “Essex County Parks Foundation” and mailed to the Essex County Parks Foundation, 115 Clifton Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104. Please write “Cherry Blossom Campaign” on the memo line of the check.

Donations are being recognized in a “Cherry Blossom Giving Tree” located at the entrance of the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Donations of $225 are recognized with a leaf on the Giving Tree and donations of $1,000 or more are recognized with special plaques on the Giving Tree wall. Donors can choose to have their name inscribed on the Giving Tree or make the contribution in memory of a loved one.

Many of the original Cherry Trees planted in Branch Brook Park were donated to the Essex County Park System by the Bamberger and Mrs. Felix Fuld family in 1927. At its height, there were about 2,500 Cherry Trees in Branch Brook Park. According to the Branch Brook Park Alliance, the original Cherry Trees began to die because of old age and, in 2006, it was determined the original collection had diminished significantly. County Executive DiVincenzo kicked off an aggressive planting program to strengthen and expand the number of cherry trees. To date, there are more than 5,000 cherry blossoms throughout Branch Brook Park.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 23 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, four off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Branch Brook Park was created in 1895 and is the first park in Essex County’s system. At 359.72 acres, it is the largest county park in Essex.