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Posted May 5, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Weather fails to dampen spirits through weekend

Erik Estrada addresses a crowd of women
Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Grand Marshal Erik Estrada addresses a crowd of women at the Wal-Mart Bloomer's Luncheon on Friday in the Shentel Festival tent. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ashley Sisk twirls her flag
Ashley Sisk, 17, of Front Royal, twirls her flag in Skyline High School's marching band during the Grand Feature Parade on Saturday. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By J.R. Williams -- jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- This year's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was largely spared from any major kinks. Up until Sunday, attendees saw little rain.

Most saw Erik Estrada's pink socks instead. This year's grand marshal frequently showed off his color-coordinated footwear, and after a whirlwind weekend, festival officials said Estrada was one reason the 82nd Bloom was a success.

"He hit the ground running," said John Rosenberger, the festival's executive director. "He was ready to go the moment he got here. [The celebrities] were a really good, really friendly bunch of guys."

Parade crowds came out, despite a damp Friday morning and Saturday's threatening skies. Rosenberger estimated 200,000 people came to the festival.

"It was miraculous that it continued to hold off as long as it did," he said. "We had two solid, tremendous, colorful, well-produced parades."

By Sunday, however, rain caught up with the Anthony's Pizza Weekend in the Park, driving down crowds. Monday's volunteer wrap-up party was relocated to the Hampton Inn because of excessive rain at the Sprint Tent behind Winchester Medical Center.

Revelers stayed safe as well amid a strong police presence.

Capt. Kelly Rice of the Winchester Police Department said no major crimes were reported during official festival events.

The entire Winchester patrol force was working the streets with help from several other law-enforcement agencies, she said.

"The preparation is yearlong," Rice said. "We're certainly involved in a lot of meetings. As soon as this year is over, we prepare for 2010."

Police did have a few surprises, however: On Friday, a train engine derailed near Piccadilly and Kent streets and spilled diesel fuel, and a structure fire was reported a couple of blocks away.

"When you're dealing with road closures, it gets a little hectic," Rice said.

Festival President Elaine Aikens said, while parade crowds seemed to be as strong as years past, events like the sports breakfast and the N'awlins Jazz Party weren't to capacity.

"Some of the attendance was down, and you really have to blame that on the economy," she said. "We did not have a good weather forecast. It was not encouraging."

Rosenberger said the week after the festival is one of the busiest weeks of the year. There's cleanup and teardown "everywhere," and various other loose ends to mend.

"This is the wrap-up week," he said. "By Memorial Day weekend, we usually have it all fixed."

Soon, festival staff will begin discussions on what to do differently next year, which includes retooled plans for events growing in popularity. Many people were concerned that the Friday night fireworks weren't coming back, he said.

"I heard that everywhere I went," Rosenberger said. "All I could tell people is that nobody's sorrier than I am."

The annual show -- canceled this year because of construction at the Handley Bowl -- is scheduled to return in 2010.

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