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Posted April 15, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Apple Blossom announces queen-designate

Ashley Taylor Landon
Ashley Taylor Landon


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By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A granddaughter of the late TV actor Michael Landon is this year's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival queen-designate.

Ashley Taylor Landon spoke by telephone from her home in Austin, Texas, for a brief interview inside a WINC radio studio Monday morning. Ashley, 17, is the daughter of Sharee Landon and filmmaker Michael Landon Jr., the son of the late actor.

"I'm just so excited," Ashley said. "I didn't really know anything about [the festival] before this but I started looking into it after and I'm interested in all the history behind it, and I'm just excited to be a part of it."

Festival officials had chosen Ashley, 17, to serve as the queen "a little while" before they announced the selection Monday. They asked the media to keep the announcement under wraps until today.

"[The Landons] are just so excited because they say the festival is indeed part of the family tradition and legacy," said Kay Bolliger, past president and chairwoman of the festival's celebrity committee. "She has heard much about the festival from her aunts, and they are very much looking forward to coming to the festival."

"[Ashley's] just a very composed, very gracious young lady," Bolliger said.

Leslie Ann Landon and Shawna Leigh Landon, Michael Landon's daughters by his second wife, Lynn Noe, served as queens in 1980 and 1996 respectively. Ashley recalled looking at pictures of her aunts in one of the past festival programs.

"It was funny seeing them that young, but they said they had a blast doing it," Ashley said.

She commented that her aunts' coronation dresses were "beautiful," but she hasn't yet started shopping for one of her own, she said.

Appearing for the festival will be her first time traveling to this part of the country, Ashley said, and she added that she hopes to see other sights before heading home.

Ashley is the oldest of three children and was born in Calabasas, Calif. According to Bolliger, Ashley has grown up on the sets of her father's movies, which include the "Love Comes Softly" series for Hallmark and the recently released big screen version of Margery Williams' "The Velveteen Rabbit."

Her grandfather starred in such TV shows as "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie" and "Highway to Heaven." He died in 1991 of pancreatic cancer, a few months before Ashley was born.

"I loved 'Little House on the Prairie,' loved 'Bonanza,'" she said. "I never specifically got to meet him ... but it's been great being able to see through the works he's done."

Growing up as a daughter of a filmmaker has its perks.

"It's been fun because we've been able to go to sets and following him in his work," Ashley said. "He's made a huge success but he's getting out of the Hollywood scene, more or less. It's just been great to watch what he does and see how he's developing as a filmmaker."

Ashley models, but also enjoys writing and working in the theater, mainly behind the scenes rather than in front, she said, adding that her writing includes short stories and dialogue. Her father plays a big role in her writing as a teacher, she said.

Ashley hasn't yet chosen a college but plans to major in creative writing and minor in philosophy.

The queen-designate will be escorted to many of the events during the several days of the festival. Ashley said she's especially looking forward to the Grand Feature Parade. Officials said the economic downturn would not affect the queen's itinerary.

As with every festival, apple pie serves as a traditional treat. Ashley said she and her mother might have to make an apple pie, but may ask for help from a family friend in California who bakes 500 pies in a week.

Ashley's mother likely will come with her to Winchester, she said, and her father probably will have to fly in to the area the day before the Grand Feature Parade. Ashley said her brother, Austin, 11, and sister, Brittany, 14, also may join her.

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