NEWARK, NJ — The 44th annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival has been canceled. Branch Brook Park, home to the blossoming cherry trees, is closed to pedestrians; those coming to the park are urged to remain in their vehicles to promote social — physical — distancing. The following is the announcement issued from the Office of the Essex County Executive:

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., Freeholder President Brendan Gill, Vice President Wayne Richardson and the Board of Freeholders announced that the 44th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Essex County Branch Brook Park has been canceled because of the Novel Coronavirus. In addition, the officials are alerting the public that Essex County Branch Brook Park is closed and anyone coming to the park should remain in their cars to promote social distancing.

“The Cherry Blossoms in bloom have significant meaning for us all and their spectacular blooming season annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. But as we take steps to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus, we are encouraging people to follow social distancing guidelines and stay out of the park. Everyone can enjoy the Cherry Blossoms in bloom again next year in 2021,” DiVincenzo, Gill and Richardson said in a joint statement.

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All events that are part of the 44th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival have been canceled, including:

  • The Cherry Blossom Bike Races on Saturday, April 4th
  • The Cherry Blossom 10K Run on Sunday, April 5th
  • The Children’s Fun Run and Family Day on Saturday, April 18th
  • The Bloomfest on Sunday, April 19th

This year’s festival was being sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ.

All parking areas will be closed and no parking along the roadway will not be permitted in Branch Brook Park. The order closing the park to the public will remain in effect, except for vehicles driving through the park.

On Monday, March 16th, DiVincenzo closed all parks, recreation facilities, parks buildings, dog parks and playgrounds – effectively closing the Parks System to eliminate the possibility of large groups of people congregating together, even if it would be outdoors.

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 families 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 trees currently blossoming throughout Branch Brook Park. This gives Essex County the distinction of having the largest and most diverse collection of cherry trees in the nation.

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, five 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.