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Posted April 21, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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City officials issue advice for spectators

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By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Words of advice if coming to the Bloom: Arrive early, expect delays.

And leave the pets at home.

That's the warning given at a press conference Monday by the Winchester Police and Fire and Rescue departments and Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival officials. Representatives of the city's Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments and the Old Town Development Board also participated in the conference.

The Fire and Rescue Department faces the job of keeping spectators and participants safe even as crowds are expected to flock downtown.

"It's a challenge for us but we'll do the best we can to ensure the safety of everybody," said Capt. Scott Kensinger.

Officials warn drivers to obey all normal parking regulations and to observe all "special event" parking signs near the parade routes. In terms of weather precautions, officials recommend event-goers wear protective clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen to keep from becoming sunburned.

Fireworks are not allowed on public property, officials warn. Also, people should know safe occupancy limits and exits when visiting local restaurants and other night spots and they should report any unsafe conditions. Spectators also must stand behind all barricades for safety reasons.

The route for the Firefighters Parade goes into effect from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 1. But, as Baker warned, the Bloomin Mile also entails the closing of streets near Handley Boulevard from 2:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Last year's event attracted more than 700 participants. More are anticipated to take part this year, Baker said.

John Rosenberger, the festival's executive director noted the Bloomin Mile "really does tie things up" and is a "high-pressure time" late on the Friday afternoon. The fireworks normally staged at Handley High School were canceled this year. Even without the fireworks, Rosenberger urged spectators to steer clear of the school but, if attending the queen's coronation, leave the area as soon as the event ends.

"Our main advice for the year has been just start early, try to be sensible," Rosenberger said. "If you're coming to these events, don't wait 'til 12 noon to go to the Grand Feature Parade and then get mad because you're stuck in traffic jams."

Baker gave more advice for festival-goers: Leave pets at home, but if they have to come along, they must be leashed and should be muzzled.

Police receive many calls for lost children during the festival. Parents should make sure they know what children are wearing that day if they have to report a missing child, Baker said. Families should set up a meeting place in case anyone becomes lost and tell a responding police officer where this place is, she added.

Officials urge spectators not to call 911 unless there is an emergency. For street closings and detours, people should call Winchester Volunteers in Policing at either 545-4737 or 545-4738. For lost children, towed vehicles or other matters, people can call the police non-emergency line at 662-4131. Questions or concerns about downtown parking and reserved spaces, call 665-0355.

Detour maps are available on the city's Web site at www.winchesterva.gov by clicking on the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Link at the top.

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival 2009

Winchester public safety officials offer the following tips and warnings for anyone wishing to attend the Bloom:
• Expect traffic congestion and limited parking in and around the parade routes. Try to arrive early if wishing to attend any festival events such as the parades.
• Detour route goes in effect May 1 from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.
• Bloomin Mile to close streets around Handley Boulevard from 2:15 to 5:30 p.m.
• Detour route goes in effect May 2 from 8 a.m. with the 10K race until 7 p.m.
• For traveling around the city, use Interstate 81 and Va. 37, U.S. 50, Va. 7 and U.S. 522 as alternate routes.
• Parking restrictions enforced from 8 a.m. May 1 to 8 p.m. May 2, with no exceptions even for residents.
• Handicapped parking available, but limited; officials recommend reserving a space in one of the garages.
• Spectators should not bring animals or pets to the events for their safety and owners' liability. Dogs must be leashed and should be muzzled. Snakes, birds and some certain animals are prohibited from access to the public.
• Vendors may try to give away turtles as prizes. By federal law, turtles' shells must be at least four inches in diameter.
• Drink responsibly. Law prohibits drinking alcoholic beverages or having open containers on public property.
-- Source: Winchester Police and Fire and Rescue departments

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