By Erin Delmore
If you can make your way to Essex County’s Branch Brook Park this month, you’ll be rewarded with the photo op of the year.
“We’re just so proud of our cherry blossom collection. As far as variety, we’re number one in the world and we have over 5,000 cherry blossom trees. When I took over in 2003 we only had 1,000,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
DiVincenzo is a “native son”. He grew up two blocks from this park.
“We didn’t have a car in my family, so our vacation was right here in Branch Brook Park, you know, playing baseball and enjoying the environment. This is like Christmas; you know, taking your Christmas photo with your family. Every time the cherry blossoms came out my family always said let’s go take a picture with the cherry blossoms,” he said.
April 9 marks the start of the 40th annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival. It wraps up on the 24th.
“We are going to kick off with a bike race on April 9 in the oval follow it up on Sunday April 10 with a 10K run that starts at the Essex County Cherry Blossom Center and runs the entire length of the park. Then next Saturday April 16 we have a wonderful one mile fun run and over 1000 school children enter followed by a family day at the southern section of the park,” said Essex County Parks Deputy Director Kate Hartwyk.
Plus guided tours and entertainment from across the region making this “hometown treasure” a national and international destination.
“I’m with my nephew and my niece and their son Ethan from Dubai. Their so excited to see this lovely piece of property,” said Essex County resident Ophelia Elamparo. “They love it and they’ve been sending by Facebook to their friends back in Dubai and they’re so jealous.”
Nutley resident Abigail Tibayan is here with her mom, uncle and two cousins.
“They actually moved here recently from California and they wanted to go out to the city but we found out the Cherry Blossom Festival was open,” she said.
Essex County officials say there are going to be 100,000 people here over the next couple of weeks, but take a tip and get here early. The first rain could wash these out, and you’re going to want to get those photos in.