Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival
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The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, a six-day festival held annually in Winchester, Virginia, is known for its many guest celebrities and events. The festival was first held Saturday, May 3, 1924, and was originally celebrated as a one-day event (although not held in 1942-1945 due to World War II). Features include a Grand Feature Parade, Firefighters' Parade (first held on Thursday, April 18, 1929), a carnival and midway, luncheons, races, walks, dances and concerts, as well as a field show competition which formerly gave out the Queen's Cup trophy to the winner (although the trophy was retired in 1977, by Princess Anne High School of Virginia Beach, Virginia after winning the competition three straight years). The Queen, Queen Shenandoah, has been crowned every year at John Handley High School (with the exception of 2007, due to ongoing renovations), starting with the original Queen, Elizabeth Steck (Arthur).
A loss of interest during the 1930s, prompted the appointment of Tom Baldridge to the seat of Executive Director of the festival. He was also employed at MGM in the publicity department, which allowed him the opportunity to schedule celebrities, in turn renewing public interest in the festival. The period of the 1960s and 1970s introduced various new aspects to the festival including: the first visit by a U.S. President, Lyndon B. Johnson (1964), the beginning of attendance by sports celebrities Jack Dempsey (1965), and the premier of Sunday in the Park (1975). A favorite of children, even in present times, got its start in the festival in 1981, the Cole Brothers Circus of the Stars. To date, this is one of the oldest civic celebrations in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
During the spring, in preparation for the festival, the citizens of Winchester hold an annual clean-up, followed by decoration of the city in green, pink and white (festival colors), in order to make Winchester more presentable for its anticipated guests. Although the city only has a population of about 24,000, festival organizers estimate a total attendance of 250,000 to 300,000.