Gucun Park’s Cherry Blossom Festival attracts record crowd
By Yang Jian
The annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Gucun Park in north Baoshan District ended today. A record number of over 430,000 visitors flocked to the park during the three-day holiday for Tomb-Sweeping Day, otherwise known as Qingming Festival, from April 2 to 4.
People appreciate cherry blossoms in full bloom while boating in the artificial lake in Gucun Park. — Jiang Xiaowei
The number was nearly double that of last year. Visitors posed for photos in front of the fully bloomed cherry trees with friends or family members. Many others created picnic-kind of ambience on the grass to enjoy the coming of spring.
The Cherry Blossom Festival started on March 15 in the largest forest park festival in Shanghai. The park has more than 12,000 cherry trees of over 80 species. Some of them are more than half a century old.
Since the launch of the festival in 2011, it has become one of the most popular event for locals as well as for visitors from neighboring provinces who travel all the way to marvel at the cherry blossoms and enjoy the spring outing.
“We traveled to Shanghai by train to enjoy the famous Cherry Blossom Festival,” said Zhang Qihua, a visitor from Jiaxing in neighboring Zhejiang Province. “There were too many visitors — much more than we expected.”
Another local visitor, surnamed Shen, who came to the park with her family on the peak day — April 3 during the Qingming holiday — said: “I don’t mind the large crowds gathering in front of the cherry trees, because we just want to take a walk, breathe some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine with our family in the park.”
A total of 182,966 visitors went to the Gucun Park on that day, setting a new record of visitors’ number in a Shanghai park. In 2016, a record-setting 168,800 visitors flocked to the park on the peak day during the month-long cherry blossom festival. During the entire festival, over 1.6 million people made the trip to the park.
“The park operators had set up temporary ticket selling stalls, toilets and food courts to serve the large crowds,” said Zhang Zhong, the operational manager of the park.
A total of 42 ticket windows were opened for peak-day visitors. Some 100 volunteers helped visitors to buy tickets and enter the park within five minutes even during peak hours.
He said more facilities could be set up to cope with larger crowds. Most visitors came at 11am and 1pm.
Shanghai traffic police had erected 15 road signs to guide visitors on streets. They also handed out maps to drivers on where they could park their vehicles, said Li Haitao, a senior traffic police officer.
“The drivers may have had to detour but it was best way to avoid major congestions,” Li said.
Authorities had set aside 2,000 extra parking spaces near the park this year, creating room for 5,400 cars in total.
On entering the park, visitors could take in cherry trees with peachy, pink, white and red cherry blossoms at five sections, including the Forest Walking Park, Children’s Forest Carnival Park, Countryside Forest Park, Forest Sporting Park and the newly opened No. 3 Gate Area.
The 130,000-square-meter Countryside Forest Park in the southwest of the Gucun Park has the most — 4,000 — cherry trees. Winding pathways provide a soothing atmosphere for visitors to have a pleasant stroll. This area is also a favorite place for visitors to take photos. A batch of Prunus Introrsa cherry trees were planted in the area in 2016.
The children’s park, covering 25,000 square meters, features a carousel and carnival train. It is adjacent to the lake and has over 500 cherry trees.
The park also features magnolia, apple and other trees.
The Forest Walking Park is dominated by white cherry blossoms, while the Forest Sporting Park has a soccer pitch, as well as tennis and basketball courts.
The cherry blossom section near the No.3 Gate was newly developed to serve the increasing number of visitors. Over 80 species of cherry trees have been planted, including about 20 precious species that were opened to the public for the first time during the festival.
Different species of cherries bloom earlier and stay that way longer.
The Kawazu-zakura cherry blossom was initially in full bloom in early March, followed by the Yoshino cherry, one of the most popular cherries, which flower by the middle of March.
Over 2,000 late cherries in red, pink, yellow and green bloomed in early April, creating a colorful sight.
After mid-April, visitors will be able to witness a spectacular “cherry blossom rain” under the cherry trees when most of the flower begin withering, Zhang said, adding that all the information is updated daily on its Weibo and WeChat platforms.
As a highlight of this year’s cherry blossom festival, a 10km women’s jogging event was held for the first time. A total of 3,000 women took part in the event. Cao Yanhua, former table tennis world champion, and Chen Yanhua, former children’s TV presenter, led the runners.
An elite team composed of 120 women lawyers, accountants and teachers from Baoshan ran ahead of the participants. The runners set off from the No.3 Gate and ran along the lake, cherry blossom avenue and cherry tree forests — a perfect route to enjoy the festival in full.
“A doctor advised me to take part in more sports activities last year after my physical condition was worsened due to busy work and lack of exercises,” a participant surnamed Chen said. “By taking part in various running events, I have become healthier and also made many friends,” she added.
The operators also organized various cultural activities such as traditional Chinese operas, fashion shows and martial arts performances in the park during the festival to thrill the large number of visitors.