The National Cherry Blossom Festival, the greatest celebration of spring in the US, kicked off in Washington, DC, on 20 March, commemorating the 101th anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees from Japan.

The tradition began in 1912, when First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two cherry trees from Japan along the north bank of the Tidal Basin, to celebrate the lasting friendship between the two nations.

"Cherry Blossoms symbolize the friendship for many years between Japan and the United States," Kenichiro Sasae, the Japanese Ambassador to the US said, "Especially this spring season, it's wonderful to come."

Some 4,000 cherry trees now line the Tidal Basin in West and East Potomac Parks and the grounds of the Washington Monument, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors annually.

Many events are planned that promote traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and the community spirit.

The main event is the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on 13 April, featuring giant cherry blossom balloons, floats, marching bands, and performances by the likes of Grammy award-winning artist Mýa, Disney's Coco Jones and Elliott Yamin from American Idol. The parade will be broadcast on TV nationwide with hosts Andrea Roane and Mike Hydeck. Washington Redskins 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Joshua Morgan, serves as Grand Marshal.

For a complete look at the National Cherry Blossom Festival events, visit

Scroll down to take a look at the latest pictures of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington...