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Landon ready to start duties


By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Ashley Taylor Landon knows a bit about celebrity as a filmmaker's daughter and granddaughter of the late actor Michael Landon.

Now she can learn about royalty.

The 17-year-old queen-designate of the 2009 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival arrived in Virginia on Wednesday and came to Winchester that evening along with her mother, former actress Sharee Gregory. Ashley was able to see some of the area during the drive to the city from the airport, despite the rain.

"I think it's absolutely stunning and all the history be-hind it," Ashley said of Winchester during an interview with the media. "It's beautiful. I'd consider living here. I love it."

She drove by John Handley High School, where her parents will crown her queen Friday.

"It's a stunning campus," Ashley said, adding that she does have some similar schools in her hometown of Austin, Texas. "I wouldn't say any compare to that campus, I mean, it's gorgeous."

Her mother said she feels the same way.

"We're ready to move here," Gregory said. "I called my husband when we were on the way in and said 'I wish you were on this drive with me,' and he said 'are we moving?' and I said 'I think, maybe.'"

Ashley's friends have reacted with disbelief, mainly because Austin doesn't have events like the Bloom, she said.

"Their reaction is kinda like 'what are your talking about? You're not royalty,'" Ashley recalled.

Even being the daughter of a filmmaker didn't prepare her for the attention she's receiving as queen-designate, she said. In fact, she prefers to work behind the camera, as well as writing plays and short stories. Ashley models and began taking ballet recently, and also worked on a play.

This year's choice for queen of the festival carries on a tradition for the Landon family.

Ashley's aunts, 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. Michael Landon, famous for playing roles in TV shows "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Highway," died of cancer in July 1991.

Gregory said Leslie Landon and Lynn Noe talk about the Bloom.

"We just never even thought or dreamed that [Ashley] would be able to have this experience, so we just feel really honored," Gregory said.

Ashley said she had spoken to her aunts recently, once she found out the festival organizers had chosen her to serve as queen, and learned more about what to expect during the days ahead.

"They just can't say enough good things about it," she added. "They loved it. Both of them would have loved to have come. It's just really neat to be able to come and do everything that they did even though it was so long ago and they did it, and seeing the culture and tradition preserved for very long."

The queen-designate laughed when she learned a giant apple pie will be baked in her honor -- and that she'll have the first piece.

"That sounds fantastic," Ashley said, adding that she has never made an apple pie. "But hey, what better place to learn, right?"

The queen-designate, who plans to appear at a number of events throughout the festival, also just picked out her dress for the coronation. She described it as off-white, with a V-neck and shaped "like a bell." Ashley has had experience searching for dresses because she just attended her high school prom.

Ashley's father, filmmaker Michael Landon Jr., plans to join them in time to attend the parades. Neither her 15-year-old sister, Brittany, nor 10-year-old brother, Austin, however, can come for the festival.

As far as the other guests, such as Grand Marshal Eric Estrada and former American Idol Bo Bice, Ashley admitted she's not familiar with either the actor or the singer.

Ashley said her father gave her some advice for the Bloom:

"Just have fun with it."



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