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Posted March 28, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Bloom taps Erik Estrada for grand marshal

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Actor known for role on TV series 'CHiPs'

By Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- He's one of Hollywood's most congenial, most family-oriented celebrities, but now he'll be rubbing elbows with royalty.

Erik Estrada, best known for his role as Officer Frank Poncherello on the TV series "CHiPs," has been chosen as the grand marshal for this year's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

"CHiPs" remains on the air in syndication, but Estrada has moved on to other projects more familiar to younger generations -- providing the voice of disastrous station engineer Marco in the animated "Sealab 2021" for the Cartoon Network and Señor Felipe in PBS's "Maya and Miguel."

He also gained fame on Spanish-speaking television as Johnny in the telenovela "Dos Mujeres, Un Camino."

"Erik is a very personable gentleman, very kind, and a real pleasure to speak with. He was not at all rushed. He spoke to me for half an hour," said Elaine Aikens, the president of the festival.

Festival-goers who meet Estrada will find a different kind of celebrity this year, she added.

"He is a very family-oriented man. He has founded his own organization, the Safe Surfin' Foundation, which he formed to educate children on the dangers of surfing the Internet," she said. "He is very approachable and I think families will enjoy meeting him because of his commitment to children."

Estrada's appearance reflects the different tack the festival has taken with celebrities in recent years.

"The high-profile celebrities are very expensive. They don't need the public exposure from parades and local fairs," Aikens said. "They are featured in movies, television, national and international publications. They are often only here for one day."

But as the 2006 visit by George Hamilton proved, there's more to celebrity than just a high profile.

"I am confident that celebrities such as George Hamilton and Erik Estrada will be remembered in our community for their warmth and their dedication to humanitarian causes," she said. "That is what impresses me as the definition of a true celebrity."

Estrada will be officially introduced at the queen's coronation at Handley High School on May 1.

He will also ride in the Firefighter's Parade later that day, and will lead the Grand Feature Parade on Saturday. Other appearances will be announced as they are scheduled.

Festival tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. at the official festival store at 2625 Valley Ave., next to Handy Mart/Dunkin' Donuts, near the intersection with Tevis Street.

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