**Check out our own Adam Caskey covering the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester live this morning for GMW here!!**
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Here we go once again, the most wonderful time of the year! No, I am not talking about Christmas....I am speaking of the one and only Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival just over the Blue Ridge Mountains in my hometown of Winchester, Virginia. I have attended every festival and parade since I was born and working on my 29th this year. The parade is always held the first weekend in May, the festival is in its 86th year. The first festival was held Saturday May 3rd, 1924 and was only a one-day celebration. Now the festival spans over a week and kicks off with the United Bank Bloomin’ Wine Festival then jumps into a series of over thirty events including a carnival, 10K race, dinners, dances, craft shows and two parades: The Firefighters Parade (originally called the Torch Light and the Mummers’ Parade that began in 1929—which is one of the nation’s largest parades of its kind) and the Grand Feature Parade, the main attraction.
Plenty of celebrities have made it to the Shenandoah Valley over the years as well including Val Kilmer, Mario Lopez, Jerry Rice, George Hamilton, Wayne Newton, Sean Astin, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Al Roker, Adam West, Mickey Mantle, Martin Short, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, President Gerald Ford (when his daughter was Queen Shenandoah in 1975), Elizabeth Taylor, Mary Tyler Moore, Rusty Wallace, Erik Estrada, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Sanders, John Riggins and Winchester’s own Patsy Cline (just to name a few).
Growing up with Apple Blossom has been a huge tradition for anybody living in the Winchester area. For me it has been additionally special considering I live and breathe Apple Blossom time every year, the first weekend in May. People decorate everything they can think of in a splash of Pink and Green, the bleachers by my alma mater John Handley High School are built in less than a week where the "grand stands" reside and also the influx of people into the city just goes to show how tight-knit the Winchester community really is. The first Apple Blossom I remember is sitting at the Grand Stands. I was three (and yes the parade was a little long for me)--however, I made a game out of seeing how many pooper scoopers would come down the street in front of the grand stand. Now and days more sophisticated pooper scoopers have taken suit, however, back in the day it was a hard day's work with just a shovel and a bucket. I guess this is why I was drawn to them...thus, the pooper scooper being my absolute favorite feature in the parade....and it is to this day! As my great-grandmother claims below...it is quite the "parade necessity."
Not only has this become a tradition for me, it is embedded through the roots of my family. I think since this whole shebang has started, a member of each generation in my family has been lucky enough to somehow be involved with the festival. This you can see from the picture below in which my grandfather, James Morgan, was asked to escort Miss Virginia around for the duration of the festival--how lucky.
However, growing up in the City of Winchester and attending John Handley High School I was fortunate enough to "become" friends with kids who lived on the parade route....believe you me, they are still my friends. I was smart and started really early--I met my first "Apple Blossom buddy" in kindergarten at Frederick Douglass Elementary School. This is how the conversation went in kindergarten class: "Hey Ashely, my name is Lauryn. Do you wanna play Lincoln logs or play with bottle caps?" "Oh, you live on the parade route? " "Hmmmm, can I come over for Apple Blossom parade?" Thank goodness her parents still live in the same house they did when I was in kindergarten, which is a historical house on the parade route. This is how the conversation goes now: "Hey Ashley, your house for Apple Blossom?" "Is your mom making those mini chicken salad sandwiches?" "You mom better be making the chicken salad sandwiches, I'm only coming if she is making mini chicken salad sandwiches."
(Ashley, picture below in the middle still continues to be one of my best friends--parade house or not).
I was quite the lucky girl when I was able to honor Queen Katherine Desiree Luckinbill as one of her Princesses for the 75th Anniversary Apple Blossom Festival. She was the granddaughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez.. Lucille Ball served as Grand Marshall for the Apple Blossom Festival in the 60's so it was such an honor to have a Queen that continued a wonderful family held tradition. I was a freshman in college when I was able to do such a special thing. However, I didn't do it alone....3 of my best friends and 7 other friends I had were ALL in the court that some year!
Check out this year's celebrities here! Happy bloom to all!