April 22 – May 1, 2016 – Winchester, VA
Dear Readers, please get out your calendars for spring! It is time to start planning your Festival activities. Brochures with ticket form are being distributed listing the over 45 activities available – events ranging from traditional to family fun to the brand new. Oh, yes, there IS something for everyone. Actually, lots of “somethings.”
This year’s theme of “Unforgettable” is another of the Festivals’ one word themes that embody feelings for the Festival and its long history. Stringing past themes together like “Timeless,” “Celebrate,” “The Land of Pink and Green,” the Festival feels these words will come together to describe the Festival as it heads towards 100 years!
The Festival ranks as the largest of its type in Virginia and is one of the top ten Festivals east of the Mississippi. Festival honors include being in the top 100 Events of North America by the American Bus Association, Top 25 Small Town Events in the US by EventCrazy.com, one of the Top Ten Best Southern Cultural Events by USA Today, Top Ten Best Spring Flower Festivals by Fodor Travel, and second in “Best Southern Events” in USA Today’s Readers Poll. This reputation comes with enthusiasm and long, hard event planning and execution. We hope you will come enjoy what the 89th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® has to offer.
This year’s dates are April 22 through May 1, 2016. Ten days! The Bloom invites you to block out some time now to make the short trek to Winchester to celebrate spring.
The festivities begin with the United Bank Bloomin’ Wine Fest on Friday evening April 22 and all day Saturday, April 23. The 10- day event is bookended with the Anthony’s Pizza Weekend in the Park along with a car show, crafts, entertainment, and Funday for children. The final event is the Sunday, May 1 – the Shenandoah Ford Blue Grass Festival with headliners Dailey & Vincent, known as the “new generation” of bluegrass stars.
Ten days, two weekends and, along the way, the carnival, midway, luncheons, dinners, dances, and celebrities. If no brochure is handy, log on to www.thebloom.com for events, tickets, and Festival news.
It’s updated almost daily as celebrities are named and details finalized. More questions? With the 45+ events and over 2000 volunteers, it’s an onerous task handled by a four-person fantastic office staff. The staff has enough knowledge in their collective brains to answer all your questions. If you can’t find it online, call 540-662-3863.
A Little Bit of History Back in 1924 a group of some 1200 citizens from all the parts of the Shenandoah Valley gathered to work together to create a better, more visited area and to highlight the apple industry, the heartbeat of the Valley. The question was posed: Would Winchester stage a Festival to encourage tourism in the spring when the apple trees were in bloom? Yes, said Winchester and Frederick County, VA delegates to the meeting. A 100% yes.
Now comes the incredible part of the story: two meetings were held, one on April 14 and a second one on April 22. W A Ryan (known as “Dad” Ryan) was elected Director General with the Reverend Robert Nelson closing the meeting with the benediction that said “the bounties of nature are the Gifts of God.” The benediction became the Festival’s motto. Eleven (yes, 11) days later, the first Festival was held.
The program for the first Festival included a parade from downtown Winchester that wound its way northward out Fairmont Avenue to the fairgrounds. Here the participants circled the racetrack as Queen Elizabeth Steck (Arthur) and her entourage viewed the parade from a viewing stand.
Some 30,000 people lined the streets to watch bands, firefighting units, floats, decorated vehicles and apple industry equipment. The parade lasted about 45 minutes.
Following the parade, the Queen was crowned on the campus of Handley School, followed by dancers on the Handley steps entertaining afterwards. A dance for the court, a Queen’s Ball, was held that evening with a fireworks display after dark filling the sky to conclude Bloom #1.
“The Land of Pink & Green”
If traditional events or memories of Festivals past are your favorites, the Queen’s Coronation with its pomp and circumstance is based on the rituals of King Alfred’s crowning in Winchester, England in 871 AD. The coronation of Queen Shenandoah LXXXIX will be held at Handley High School on Friday, April 29 at 1:30 p.m. with musical entertainment following. A Queen’s Ball is also a tradition where tuxedos and formal gowns are still de rigueur.
Parades, for many, are the signature events of the 10-day Festival. After a spring clean-up of Winchester, thanks to the public works departments, streets and homes are decorated in the traditional colors of pink and green with wreaths, flags, bunting, and flowers. The small city is transformed to welcome the approximately 300,000 guests who attend. Friday night, April 29, 5:30 p.m. is the Firefighters’ Parade. This year will be the 84th parade! Following the parade is a spectacular fireworks display courtesy of Rugs Direct, WINC 92.5 and Jim Stutzman Chevrolet.
And, then, stay over for Saturday’s Chevrolet Grand Feature Parade beginning at 1:30 p.m. Reserved seating can be purchased at various areas along the parade route. Filled with floats, bands, celebrities and special units, it’s one of the best parades you’ll ever see.
Other long-lived events are the Ladies’ Horticultural Luncheon which began officially in 1949 as an event for the women associated with the fruit growing industry. With a noted speaker and celebrity visitors, this event is held on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. Of course, there has to be an Apple Pie Baking Contest. At this fun event, watch entrants peel, season, and prepare a winning dessert. It’s free to watch at the Marker- Miller Orchards.
Celebrating the Queen Designate’s (she’s not crowned yet) arrival to town, the civic clubs of the area join together for a memorable dinner on Thursday evening to welcome her and her family to the Festival.
Following the motto of “the bounties of nature are the Gifts of God,” an annual sellout event, the Knouse Prayer Brunch on Friday, April 29, always features a noted motivational speaker, while Wednesday’s Valley Health Business at the Bloom luncheon introduces attendees to a noted speaker from the business world. Or if a group of ladies want to decorate hats and dress in their newest pink and green, the Ferguson Bloomers Luncheon, some 28 years old, is held in the “big tent” on the Winchester Medical Campus. This year the tent is known as the Tolley Dental Event Tent and will be the site for numerous activities.
While the ladies are lunching, the tradition for men is the 78-year-old Shenandoah Ford Stag Luncheon. Men of all ages gather for fun, food, and various libations as they greet one another at this annual bash. There are a few ladies present now, but it is still considered “a man thing.” A newer choice for men and more sedate is the BB&T Commonwealth Luncheon. All of these events are on Friday, April 29.
Other events with long traditions are musical. Free to the public are the Concert Band Competition (some 40 years old) and the Jazz Competition of 35 years which are held at Shenandoah University at 8 a.m. on Friday, April 29. If you like Square Dancing, the Festival’s celebration of this 74-year-old specialty is held on Saturday night, April 30th after the Grand Feature Parade as is the Ram Country Music Party (tickets required).
Other musical events are the very popular Oldies Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance on Saturday, April 23 where baby-boomers get a kick of nostalgia, or the Thursday 11 a.m. Willows at Meadow Branch Young at Heart luncheon and dance with big band sounds – now in its 29th year. Pull on your go-go boots, find your big hair wig, and don love beads to head for Grove’s Harley-Davidson Thursday Night Fever Disco party which, although only ten years old, is fast becoming a tradition to over 1000 people who attend annually. It’s worth the ticket to see the costumes!
A special night for the ladies is Kimberly’s Pumps & Pearls at the historic George Washington Hotel Ballroom. In its 9th year, the event features a shoe contest along with dancing, grand door prizes, and a night of high style and fun. The date is Monday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are limited – buy early!
Yes, the Bloom has sports! Enjoy the Festival as a spectacle for mind, soul, and body. Play in the Virginia National Bank Pro-Am Golf Tournament on Wednesday, April 27. Run in the 35-year-old Valley Health 10K Race at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 30 (an officially sanctioned event with chips and cutting edge technology). There is also a Shenandoah Valley Orthodontics Kids Bloomin’ Mile Race at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 29 sponsored by Shenandoah Valley Orthodontics with a 1000 plus children running the course.
Also, a favorite for the many is the Westminster-Canterbury Breakfast Walk at 8 a.m. on Thursday. This nice stroll in spring followed by an extraordinary breakfast is a 27-year-old winning combination. New this year is the Apple Blossom Tennis Pro-Am to be held on Saturday, April 23 in conjunction with the Winchester Country Club. Look for updates on this new event via e-blasts and online at www.thebloom.com, and Facebook.
If you would rather see and hear the sports celebrities without breaking a sweat, purchase your tickets early for the often at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 30.
For the Family
Mostly, the Bloom is for the whole family parades, carnival, midway, contests, events in the park, the Kids’ Bloomin’ Mile, the spectacle of all the crowds and vendors and smells of carnival foods – elephant ears, frying onions and sausage, and cotton candy. And kids of all ages enjoy seeing firetrucks up close and personal – 9 a.m. on Friday, April 29 is both a show of firefighting equipment and a fire truck rodeo, both free to the public. Families enjoy strolling the parade routes and Winchester Old Town, seeing the pink blossoms painted on the street designating the parade’s “trail of pink petals.”
Also back this year is Car Credit Nation’s Apple Blossom’s Got Talent with a $5000 prize. Over a three-month period, participants are judged to select the finalists who will compete to be the winner on Wednesday, April 27. There have been singers, dancers, musical combos, hula hoop artists, and comedians. Come see what kinds of talent ABGT will show this year and see who wins the big money.
A new hit emerged last year with the Winchester Cider Works Tasting and Orchard Tour. It is held on the first Sunday of the Bloom, April 25. It’s a special and nostalgic treat to actually walk among the apple trees. (According to the Old Farmers’ Almanac, the temperatures are slated to be in the low 60’s – good for flowering fruit trees.) One last tradition to create for yourself: collectibles. Some folks keep each year’s souvenir program book; the Crown, Cork & Seal cans with Bloom dates and logos, others collect the Festival pin from each year or the annual mug. The Apple Blossom store will be filled with pink and green items for everyone in the family. The store will be opening April 4. Check the website for times and location.
Past celebrities have included, with the help of the Harry Byrd family and MGM Executive Tom Baldridge who also served as Executive Director of the Festival, such notables as descendants of George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Robert E Lee, ambassadors from various parts of the world, presidents (Kathryn Eisenhower was the 1953 Queen and Luci Johnson in 1964), author Margaret Mitchell, Benny Goodman and his orchestra, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Van Johnson, Hopalong Cassidy, Ed Sullivan, Cyd Charisse, James Cagney, Lucille Ball, Pat Boone (daughter Laury was the 1977 Queen), Dan Aykroyd, Mary Tyler Moore, Val Kilmer, Sean Astin, Erik Estrada, Debbie Reynolds, Mario Lopez, Scotty McCreery, Jimmy Dean, Dottie West, Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Jessie Owens, many, many football stars as well as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Willie Mays.
Last year’s superstar visitors were Lee Greenwood and Kevin Jonas and the Queen’s mother, Candace Cameron. These are just some of the noted visitors to the Bloom.
This is Your Invitation
You are cordially invited to the 89th “Unforgettable” Bloom. Please come! For celebrity announcements and details checkout www.thebloom.com and follow the events on Facebook.