Apple Blossom Festival Holds Climactic Weekend
The 91st Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival closed out with a bang this weekend after a series of parades and celebrity appearances.
The weekend began Friday evening with the Firefighters’ Parade, where dozens of retired fire trucks from across Northern Virginia drove through the streets of Winchester. Drivers flashed their siren-lights and waved as they passed thousands crowded along the parade route. Country music singer Sara Evans acted as Firefighters’ Marshal, making this her second festival appearance.
The next morning, Richard Petty joined Winchester citizens and festival goers for the 91st Sports Breakfast. This year’s Sports Marshal and a NASCAR legend in his own right with 200 career race victories, Petty spoke to a crowd of around 700 about being part of a team. Emcee Mike O’Dell (Vice President of Royal Broadcasting) also introduced the breakfast’s other featured guest athletes; the Festival’s Grand Marshal, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, was in attendance, as well as Olympic gold medal speed-skater Dan Jansen and World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase–also known as “The Million-Dollar Man.”
The weather was nearly perfect for the Grand Feature Parade, despite some rain that came towards the end. Sara Evans and Dan Marino were both in attendance for the main event of the festival. Other celebrities included actor Sean Astin, known for playing the role of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Ruth Graham, daughter of the 20th century’s most prominent Christian evangelist, the late Rev. Billy Graham, was also in attendance. Despite Saturday’s rain discouraging people from other activities like Weekend in the Park in Jim Barnett, the carnival on Valley Avenue, and the midway downtown, Festival President Mike Stanfield was quoted as saying that he thought crowds were bigger than last year. Crowd estimates won’t be available for several days, but in total the Festival comprised approximately 1,500 volunteers who helped at the festival’s roughly 45 events.
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