By J.R. Williams -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A row of chairs at Cork and Braddock Streets -- prime parade territory -- was chained to a power pole weeks ago.
Advertisements for parking have been up for just as long. Some veteran festivalgoers parked their trucks along Washington Street months ago, and several groups have roped off sections of sidewalk with tape.
Last weekend's Old Town Wine & Fine Arts Festival marked the technical beginning of this year's Bloom, but for many the anticipation began long before.
Frederick County residents Deborah Brown and Troy Swartwout were strolling down the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall on a recent warm afternoon. They've lived in Winchester for more than a decade, they said, and look forward to the festival every year. Recently, they've developed a favorite spot.
"Last year, we sat down by the Cork Street Tavern for both parades," Swartwout said. "Every Friday it's free."
With some of his family coming down for the weekend, he said, the only strategy for his crowd is to beat the crowd.
"You've got to get there early. You're never going to be able to change what's going on once you get there," he said.
But Brown said after so many festivals, she hasn't decided whether to attend every event.
"We're not sure about Saturday's parade," she said.
At the other side of the mall, Alisa Kerns, 26, and Ammon Kerns, 29, have a slightly different approach: Get out of town.
It's a tradition for them to go camping on Apple Blossom weekend. They've done it for years, Alisa Kerns said, and on Friday they're headed to Cross Junction.
"We've been here all our lives. It's too much of a mess," she said. "It's a lot of touristy attractions."
Ammon Kerns said he used to live across from the Handley Library, "right where they lined the porta-potties."
Both said they used to come as children. The festival is good for the economy, they said, but not for them.
"My parents used to take us and park two days early in a parking garage just to watch the parade," Alisa Kerns said.
Debbie Akkerdaas, owner of Fabulous Finds consignment shop on the mall, was packing up for the day. She said she'll put up a booth outside her shop, partly to protect the storefront from the midway crowds.
"I like the Apple Blossom, but I think we've outgrown the 'carniness' on the mall," she said. "I think there needs to be a different venue for the town as far as the midway."
She said after seeing the success of the Old Town Fine Art & Wine Festival, the arts and crafts in the park should be moved to the mall.
"We're too small for this," she said. "Art and wine was fabulous. Winchester can have things like that and be tasteful. Why not show off our town again?"
Traditional festivities began Wednesday and run through Sunday. For more information on the festival, visit thebloom.com or call 662-3863.