Part 2: Weekend 2: The Parades
Last week’s blog post explored the highlights of the April 24 through 26 weekend of the 2015 Apple Blossom Festival. Most people will tell you that the highlights of the second weekend, May 1 through 3, are the parades. For more details about the parades and other events, see the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival’s official site at www.thebloom.com.
To give a little perspective, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was created in 1924 as a way to promote the Shenandoah Valley in general and the apple industry in particular. The early festivals included elaborate pageants on the steps of Winchester’s Handley High School involving hundreds of school children. Post-World War II began a golden age of celebrity Grand Marshalls for the parade including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ed Sullivan and Lucille Ball. But always, there has been a parade.
Firefighters Parade (Friday)
The Firefighters Parade, the largest and oldest of its kind in the world, starts at 5:30 on Friday evening. For the kid inside all of us, what’s more exciting than a gleaming fire truck with an occasional blast of the horn?
For those really into the history of firefighting, a parade of antique firetrucks, many over 100 years old, takes place earlier in the day at 2:00 p.m.
And if you really want a closer look, come to the Fire Truck Rodeo and Display of New and Antique Firefighting Equipment Friday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Millbrook High School. The rodeo features drivers maneuvering their vehicles through tight spots, forward and back.
Grand Feature Parade (Saturday)
The Grand Feature Parade is still the highlight of the Apple Blossom Festival. It kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with 170 floats, bands, official cars, clowns, princesses, and more that wind their way around Winchester. The parade takes about three hours to pass by. The Grand Marshall this year will be singer/actor/pop idol Kevin Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame.
Bluegrass Festival (Sunday)
Years of persistence by organizers of the Apple Blossom Festival have paid off — Ricky Scaggs will be the headliner for the Sunday Bluegrass Festival. Held on the grounds of the Winchester Medical Center on Sunday from 10:00 am. to 4:00 p.m., the Bluegrass Festival is a great way to finish your festival weekend. As of this writing, the reserved seating is sold out; general admission seating is still available but likely to sell out in advance.
Some street closures in Winchester will begin as early as 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 30 with the set-up of the Midway on Piccadilly St. On Friday, additional road closures begin as early as noon in preparation for the Firefighters Parade that evening. Saturday’s road closures and detour route will begin in the morning and last most of the day.
For the complete listing of road closures and parking restrictions, visit www.winchesterva.gov/apple-blossom.
General advice is, be prepared to walk a good way to get to a viewing spot along the parade route. Parking is at a premium. One strategy is to purchase a ticket at least a day in advance for parking in one of three municipal garages. The $15 tickets must be purchased in person at the Winchester Parking Authority in the garage at the George Washington Hotel.
The other strategy is to trust to serendipity and wear your walking shoes. The advice from the festival coordinators is:
“Follow the directions of the police, get as close as you can, and park somewhere legal. One ‘insider’ recommends taking Interstate 81 to Route 37, then exit at the Sunnyside Exit [route 522 south towards Winchester]. From there, proceed towards downtown on Fairmont Avenue where you’ll see many parking lots selling spots for minimal fees. The walk from there to the Parade Route and the Midway is not very long and the view is great.”
A final recommendation is to download the Apple Blossom App from the app store. There’s tons of information, including a feature that will help you find your car when it’s all over. Have fun at The Bloom!