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Queen, court presented to Winchester

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- In addition to the large crowd, John Handley High School was filled with grace and elegance on Friday for the crowning of Ashley Taylor Landon as queen of the 82nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

Ashley, 17, received thunderous applause as she was escorted to the stage by her father, Michael Landon Jr., son of the late Michael Landon, who may be best known for his role as Charles Ingalls in the hit TV series, "Little House on the Prairie."

In her role as "chancellor" of the coronation, Apple Blossom Festival President Elaine Aikens declared that the festival had officially begun.

"I hereby declare all of you to be subjects of the Apple Blossom realm," Aikens said.

After preliminary remarks by several speakers in their "official" royal roles, Ashley went on bended knee to be crowned by her father and mother, Sharee Landon, whose title for the ceremony was "minister of the crown."

"We crown you Queen 82nd of the Apple Blossoms," Landon said to his daughter as the crown was placed on her head. "Long live the queen."

Landon then escorted Ashley to her throne to begin her reign. The first order of business was for 7-year-old Jeffrey Tate Smith to present Ashley with her scepter. After making his presentation to her majesty, Jeffrey started to turn and walk away but suddenly remembered that he forgot to bow, and then turned toward the queen and did so, drawing huge applause.

The next crowd stealer was actor Erik Estrada, festival grand marshal, who was knighted by Ashley.

"Rise Sir Poncherelo," Ashley said to Estrada, using the name of his character in the hit TV show "CHiPs."

The 60-year-old Estrada brought the house down when he pulled up his pants legs and revealed bright pink socks in keeping with the traditional pink and green theme.

"You keep this tradition alive," Estrada said before being knighted. "Tradition is the key to your future and your children's future."

Like Jeffrey, several of the other children who had roles in the coronation said they also enjoyed themselves.

Sarah Parker Elson, 9, of Winchester, who was the bearer of the key to the city, said she was "a little" nervous, but she also had fun.

Katherine Ann Martin, 7, also of Winchester, the bearer of the apple, also admitted to being a tad bit nervous.

"Actually, my mother just told me to have fun and do a good job," she said.

Bearer of the pillow, 8-year-old Elia Maria Norton of Winchester, said she enjoyed "being able to see the queen."

Emcee Joe Headley helped keep everyone on cue during the ceremony, which included the royal command performance of "Rock 'n' Roll Celebration" by The Handley Singers, under the direction of Gloria Stewart.

Handley singer Ryan Thompson serenaded the queen during one of the numbers, and also danced with her majesty.

A number of festival celebrities were introduced to the queen, including former Washington Redskins place-kicker Mark Moseley. Asked if he felt there was more pressure on Ashley than he felt lining up a game-winning field goal, Moseley replied with a grin, "Probably on her."

"Yeah, I was a bit nervous going up there," Ashley said, adding that hospitality shown to her made her feel at home.

"Gosh," she said, "these are just the most fantastic people I've ever met."


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