By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- "American Idol" runner-up Bo Bice didn't face any judges Thursday night.
Instead, the Alabama singer gave his own praise for the community at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival's Firefighters' Reception.
"You've got a beautiful town," this year's firefighters' marshal told the crowd of about 400 people in his southern accent. "We're very blessed to be here. As I was saying before, I've never seen more pink and green in my entire life. I think y'all have covered every pink-and-green base there is."
The Firefighters' Reception serves as the kickoff for the other firefighter-related events during the Bloom. During the reception, the Miss Honorary Fire Chiefs of area stations make their appearance.
"I've been here the past four years and I love it," said Kaitlyn Clay, Miss Honorary Fire Chief of the North Warren Fire Company, standing with her boyfriend, Roger Robinson, also with the fire company.
The singer did not perform, but still lauded the festival volunteers before stepping off the stage to sign autographs.
Bice then walked around the tent at Rock Harbor Golf Course, only to reappear in time to receive gifts as the honorary fire marshal. Perry Silva presented Bice with a plaque from the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association that the singer said he would hang in his recording studio.
"When I came here I wanted to shake some hands of some firefighters and some people," he added. "This reminds me every day of your gorgeous town and you wonderful people."
Bice also took time to honor emergency responders.
"We're blessed to get to travel around the world and see different places, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and where we continuously see our men and women that served in the military, when they come back home, they are EMTs, they are firefighters, they are police officers.
"They're people that keep our country safe not only on other soil, but they're people that keep our country safe right here," Bice said. "God bless every one of you."
Frank Wright, chief of the Winchester Fire and Rescue Department, gave the guest T-shirts and a patch on behalf of the career and volunteer staff of the agency. Bice said he would put the patch on his Harley-Davidson jacket.
Donald Worrell, with the national Ruritan Club, presented Bice with a "Rudy" bear. Then Karen Wagner gave Bice, on behalf of Valley Health and Valley Medical Transport, "a gift to help you relax while you're here."
"And on behalf of all the women in this room, I just would like to say, you are so much hotter in person than you are on TV," Wagner said, sparking cheers from the audience.
"Thank you for the wonderful gifts -- and the compliment," Bice said.
Later, actor Erik Estrada, serving as this year's grand marshal of the festival, appeared at the reception. He stayed and signed autographs for his fans.