By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- With her delighted parents present, Shenandoah LXXXII Queen-designate Ashley Taylor Landon was feted royally Thursday at the First Bank Queen's Dinner at Lee-Jackson Best Western.
The granddaughter of actor Michael Landon of "Bonanza" and "Little House of the Prairie" fame, Ashley is the third Landon to be selected as queen of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. The actor's daughter, Leslie Ann Landon, was the queen in 1980, followed by another daughter, Shawna Leigh Landon, in 1996.
Ashley's parents, filmmaker Michael Landon Jr., and her mother, former actress Sharee Gregory, beamed with pride as their daughter was honored by local government and community leaders.
"We thank you for bringing your sunshine to our community," dinner emcee and WINC radio personality Barry Lee told Ashley.
"Oh, I'm so proud," Michael Landon Jr. said of Ashley. "I'm just blessed to have such a wonderful daughter and I'm honored to be here and humbled that there's so much effort and time put into such a special event."
Landon said his father, who died of cancer in 1991, "would have been very proud."
Landon and Gregory's other children were not able to attend the festival.
"I have another daughter at home who I think is gonna be quite envious of her older sister," Gregory said of 14-year-old Brittany, whose younger brother is Austin, 10. "This has been just such a special, wonderful honor."
Gregory said Ashley has not been asking her for advice on how to act as the queen.
"No," Gregory said. "She's a pretty confident girl, I guess."
Ashley was grateful for the welcome and the gifts she received at the dinner.
"I thank you for everything," she told the packed room. "It's been great. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I am."
As she was leaving with escort William Henry Price, the queen-designate said the best part of the dinner was "just seeing everyone come together, just the community."
Asked how the Old Dominion's hospitality compared to that of Texas, she said, "Austin, Texas is very hospitable, but this is just really awesome."
Firefighters' Marshal Bo Bice, who won national acclaim on "American Idol," and Grand Marshal Erik Estrada, who gained fame as officer Frank Poncherelo on the hit TV series "CHiPs," made appearances at the dinner.
"You have an absolutely gorgeous town," said Alabama native Bice. "The town is so welcoming. I've never seen more pink and green in my life. That's cool. I dig that."
Estrada told Ashley that one of his jobs as a struggling actor in Hollywood was to wash her grandfather's car. A native of Spanish Harlem in New York who as a youngster aspired to become a police officer, Estrada was especially honored to be presented with an honorary deputy's badge by Winchester Sheriff Lenny Millholland.
"I'm glad to be here," Estrada said. "Let's have some fun, OK?"