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Posted May 4, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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It's a bloomtown
Attendees of Grand Feature Parade say event 'brings the kid out of you'
By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Marching bands and motorcycles, farm equipment and floats shared the streets Saturday during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival's Grand Feature Parade.
Spectators lined the sidewalks. Some, like true parade-watching veterans, sat in lawn chairs, armed with snacks and cameras, while others stood behind the chairs to watch for their favorite celebrity or band.
"Erik! Erik!" one man called as Grand Marshal Erik Estrada rolled past atop a convertible. A cheer went up as Estrada turned and waved in the man's direction.
Lesley Piner, of Staunton, and her children Ben, 11, and Ali, 8, were among hundreds settling in along Braddock Street to watch the parade. Piner said this was the family's first trip to the festival.
"We have a pretty big [parade] in Staunton for the Fourth of July, but this one is huge compared to that," Piner said.
Ali said her favorite part of the parade was when the "Miss America people" came by. Piner said she just liked watching people -- and it paid off Saturday, as she saw several friends from home in the crowd.
"It is amazing," she said. "Evidently, we weren't the only people who made the trip."
Anita Bowman, of Winchester, was also looking for familiar faces. Bowman, who taught third and fourth grade at Sacred Heart Academy for 10 years, said festival special guests Jon William "Scott" Hofstedt and Norman Shankle were former students of hers.
Both Hofstedt, an actor, and Shankle, an opera singer, were quiet, nice and good students, she said. Bowman's seat was at the front of the sidewalk, and she said she hoped to get autographs from both men during the parade.
Bowman has long been a supporter of the festival, she said, and of the bands that march in the parade.
"We used to have bands sleep on the floors of our classrooms," she said. During the parades, "I carried a whistle and gave the bands false signals to play in front of me," she said, laughing.
Bowman said Saturday's weather -- overcast and cool -- was great, and rain wouldn't be an issue.
"It's not going to rain today. I brought two umbrellas," she said.
Apple Blossom week can be fatiguing, but it's not to be missed, she said.
"It's so neat, the way the town turns out," she said. "It's just like one huge block party."
Cornell Johnson, of Inwood, W.Va., said he'd been to the festival many times, and that its "spirit" is what has kept him coming back. The bands don't hurt, either.
"I think it typifies America," he said. "The spirit of the bands is sensational stuff."
Velda Glover, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said she closed up shop at her hair salon to come to the parade.
"It's exciting," she said. "We all grew up around this."
The festival's atmosphere is "very friendly," Johnson said.
"I think people need releases and this is one, I'm sure, that folks look forward to every year," he said.
Glover said she thought there was "more closeness" this year, likely because of the economy.
"I believe it's much nicer this year," she said. "Maybe it's because we're all in the same boat.
"I just love it. ... It brings the kid out of you, I think."
"I think you're right," Johnson said.
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