City celebrates spring with cherry blossoms

While Yalies donned their shorts and tank tops to watch Ben Harper during Spring Fling, dozens of New Haven residents gathered under the shade of newly blossomed cherry trees Sunday to celebrate the arrival of spring.

More than 100 New Haven residents brought their blankets and chairs to Wooster Square this weekend to participate in the 26th Annual Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival. Wandering around amid flower vendors offering the latest blooms, a cart of Libby’s Italian Ices and a small photographic exhibit of historic New Haven, people who attended Sunday’s festival got a rare opportunity to break from their hectic schedules and indulge in the coming of spring.

“It’s really a wonderful celebration,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who is also co-chairman of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

When asked about her plans for the day, she nodded to the long line formed in front of a Libby’s stand and said, “I’m going to go get some — I grew up with lemon ice.”

While some people weathered the sun, most took refuge from the 75-degree heat in the shade of the newly blossomed Yoshino cherry trees as a band played traditional swing and jazz hits in the middle of the square.

“We go wherever there’s music,” 81-year-old Anthony Gentile said as he finished the homemade cookie he had purchased from a nearby bake sale.

His wife, Marion Gentile, who sat next to him in a beach chair under the shade of a blossoming tree, said they have been attending the Cherry Blossom Festival for at least 10 years.

Although the festival mainly attracted older residents, families with their young children also enjoyed the arrival of spring in New Haven. Among them, Bill Bunin, 36, and his wife, Chisato, played a game of frisbee in the corner of the square with their three children.

Bunin’s friend, Michio Seto, 38, said what struck her the most about the festival was the number of people out and about.

But only a few Yale students showed up for the festival, perhaps because it was competing with Spring Fling.

“They must not know about it,” said Anthony Gentile.

Bunin said he would enjoy seeing more Yale students attending events in New Haven.

Seto, who is Japanese, said she preferred New Haven’s celebration of the Yoshino cherry blossoms to the traditional Japanese celebrations of its national flower, the cherry blossom.

Seto pointed to a section of Wooster Square where the cherry trees had bloomed especially thickly and described the blossoms as “pink clouds” that descend to the ground.

Beverly Carbonella, co-chairwoman of the Cherry Blossom Festival, lives in a house facing Wooster Square. She prepared her home for a party open to her friends and family to celebrate the festival.

“I hope it will go on forever,” she said as she stood on her porch and glanced tiny pink petals drifting down to the ground.

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