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Posted at 3:18 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Cherry Blossom street fair to charge fee

By David Nakamura

Views of Washington’s famous cherry blossoms are still free. But the popular Japanese culture street fair that culminates the two-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival no longer is.
For the first time in its 51-year history 15 years, the Sakura Matsuri festival along Pennsylvania Avenue NW will take place April 9 behind a 6-foot high fence and require visitors to pay a $5 admission fee, organizers said Tuesday.

The fee will help cover an estimated $300,000 in costs to produce the event, which has drawn about 150,000 people in each of the past several years, said John R. Malott, president of the Japan-America Society, which stages the street fair. In all, about 4,000 staff, volunteers, government officials and performers are part of the staging process, he added.

“The number one complaint we get is that there are so many people, it’s become so crowded that people can’t enjoy it,” Malott said. “Hopefully an admission fee will reduce the size of the crowd and people will have a better time.”

The fence will run along Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 14th Streets, Malott said. The fair will no longer also run north-south along 12th Street, which it traditionally did. There will be five entrance gates and customers may purchase tickets at the door, but Malott encouraged event-goers to buy tickets ahead of time at the event’s Web site.

This year, the event will feature appearances by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and Japan’s only NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata. Maki Kaji, the “father of Sudoku,” who appeared in 2009, will make a return visit. Several performers, including Uzuhi, a Japanese Pop Punk band, will also be on hand.

“Knock on wood, the weather will be good and the net income from that will allow us to in the future to bring more performers from Japan,” Malott said.

Asked whether he thought event-goers would grumble about the admission fee, Malott said his organization conducted surveys for the past several years. Most visitors remain at the event for five hours, he said, and 30 percent are tourists from out of town – both groups that will find the entrance fee a small inconvenience for a day’s worth of entertainment.

Organizers of the Philadelphia Sakura Matsuri charged a fee last year, he added, and had the same sized crowd – about 40,000 – as the previous year when it was free.

“Experts told us when we did the study that some people will object but the No. 1 factor is that as long as the line is moving and people get in quickly, they’ll come in,” Malott said.

By David Nakamura  | March 1, 2011; 3:18 PM ET
Categories:  DC  
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...people complain about crowds at a street fair? Yeah, right. This is just a money grab. I usually go and at least buy from the food vendors, but count me out this year.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 1, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

This can't be serious. This is an April Fool's prank one month early, right? Um, right?

Posted by: Alczervik | March 1, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

This article is very misleading... To be clear, it's not talking about the Cherry Blossom Festival as a whole, but rather the "street fair" portion which takes place on April 9th.

Posted by: mothersagainstdriving | March 1, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Good. I've been there and it is way too crowded. This will help keep out the riff-raff also.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | March 1, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

It's not a money grab. This event costs money to put on, and that's just the way it is. If you don't want to pay, don't go. Otherwise stop whining.

Posted by: Ddad99 | March 1, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Would anyone have gone to the street fair if it wasn't free? Will the street fair be held if nobody decides to pay?

Posted by: richyancy | March 1, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Only in G/D America. Boycott it!

Posted by: billbarry1 | March 1, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I swear, people will complain about anything. I've been to that festival many times over the years and have noticed that the crowds have been getting much, much bigger the last few years. It has been hard to get food, use port-a-pots and to get a decent view of the performances. Commenter dkp01 above complains that this is a money grab - did dkp01 happen to catch the bit in the article that $300,000 in costs have to be covered by the non-profit Japan-America Society of Washington. Come on, $5 is nothing compared to the Chili Cook-Off festival and other similar festivals which charge $20 or more. I'll gladly fork over the small admissions fee and will continue to enjoy this wonderful festival with less crowd around me. It'll also provide better access to the beer gardens.!!!!

Posted by: stuckinacube | March 1, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I need to see the overhead expenses, fundraising, grants,etc. for the Japanese American Society. Someone is getting paid...$5 admission fee..for what? Drip, drip, drip...Someone is making a profit.

Posted by: whatsreallygoingon | March 1, 2011 6:04 PM | Report abuse

$5 per person? I go with my family mainly to enjoy the food. Thanks for this article. We wont even bother going there.

Posted by: gp011 | March 2, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

stuckinacube, did you notice that at $5 a pop, they'll cover their expenses completely with 60,000 people? So if they have more than 60,000 people show up, they turn a profit. Yes, it's a money grab. The other article notes that the Philadelphia Sakura festival added a ticket fee and saw no crowd reduction. Why not drop it down to $2/head, or reduce the size of the festival? And why insult anyone's intelligence by claiming people who choose to go to crowded events hate crowded events? Nothing wrong with trying to make a little bit of cash, but don't lie to do it.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 2, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

actually, the Japan-America Society of Washington DC will not make a huge profit. all of the money made will go towards several other annual events like the Japan Bowl (also in April) and their annual public affairs dinner (December.
Also, you may not know that JASW has to pay the salaries of all of the policemen, firefighters, security agents, trashmen, etc. JASW charges the food vendors and artisans a very small price and doesn't get a percentage of their profit. JASW will be in extreme debt next year if they don't charge this year...

Posted by: water03 | March 3, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"Also, you may not know that JASW has to pay the salaries of all of the policemen, firefighters, security agents, trashmen, etc. JASW charges the food vendors and artisans a very small price and doesn't get a percentage of their profit. JASW will be in extreme debt next year if they don't charge this year...

Posted by: water03 | March 3, 2011 2:46 PM "

So raise the price on the food vendors and artisans, and/or request a percent of their profits. Reduce the number of repetitive booths by pricing some vendors out (there are repetitive booths and you know it). And as for the police, one can assume that's included in the $300k operating costs.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 3, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

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