The second annual Cherrybration brought leisure, laughter and lights to Centennial Park with family activities, crafts, music and a parade of lanterns at dusk.
Organizers estimated more than 1,000 people of all ages attended Saturday's free outdoor festival, which is part of Howard County Tourism Inc.'s Blossoms of Hope project.
Over four years, the Blossoms of Hope effort has planted more than 1,250 cherry trees in Howard County and, through sponsorships of trees on public land and other efforts, raised more than $56,000 for the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center in Columbia.
The Cherrybration began last year to celebrate the blossoming of the cherry trees and to give people an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with family and friends and enjoy the arrival of spring. It includes educational displays on wellness topics and low-tech activities.
A highlight of the event is an evening parade in which participants carry hand-made lanterns containing battery-powered lights.
This year's parade, led by a woman on stilts portraying Mother Nature, included at least 250 individuals, according to Victoria Goodman, executive director of Blossoms of Hope.
The luminary parade was the culmination of several months of workshops held at libraries, the Howard County Arts Center and other locations, during which about 500 tissue-paper-covered lanterns were made.
"We were amazed how many people from the workshops actually came and brought their lanterns back," Goodman said. People also acquired lanterns at the festival for a small donation.
Goodman added: "It was a great day. We were so tickled."
Another Blossoms of Hope effort this spring involved local restaurants donating a portion of their sales to the campaign. Goodman said the "pink plate specials" raised an estimated $4,500, the majority of which will go to the Mayer Center.
Efforts will continue throughout the year to encourage people to sponsor cherry trees on public land and for individuals and businesses to purchase cherry trees through the program to plant at their own locations.
Next May, the Cherrybration will return, Goodman said, and it will include a half-marathon organized by the Columbia Triathlon Association.
Based on the Cherrybration's success this year, she said, "It can only get bigger."