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Apple Blossom officials overturn 25-year ban, though only in selected section
By J.R. Williams - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The Firefighters' Parade at this year's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival might raise a little more celebratory racket, festival planners said Wednesday.
Fire companies will be allowed to sound their sirens in a special section at the end of the parade, a signature event scheduled for April 29.
Additionally, the handful of companies previously banned from the parade for sounding their sirens will now be able to participate, officials said.
The decision rescinds a 25-year siren ban.
"We're very pleased," said John Rosenberger, executive director of the festival. "We had really hoped that some sort of compromise could be reached."
Sirens will be allowed only for a group at the end of the parade. The solution -- developed by a committee of past parade directors who studied the issue -- will be a one-year trial.
Incentives, such as more prominent parade placement, will be offered for companies who choose not to sound their sirens, according to a festival news release. Fire companies in the special section won't be judged and aren't eligible for awards. Any trucks in the main parade that sound their sirens face an indefinite ban.
Lloyd Winters, director of the parade, said some companies have expressed interest in making noise in the special section.
Shawnee Fire Station, which had been suspended, has said they will participate in the parade but not blow their sirens, Winters said.
In the past, concerns were raised about the sirens interfering with judging and drowning out bands. Winters called the plan an "accommodating" solution for both the firefighters and festival attendees who wanted a change.
Specifically, the parade will begin with antique equipment before other fire and rescue trucks, bands and celebrities.
Then, motorcycles and military equipment will be featured, followed by the siren group.
About 20 bands have signed up so far to participate in the parade, and 20-30 fire companies have signed on as well. The fire company total is down slightly, Winters said, but crews have until the end of the month to turn in their applications.
Festival President Tom Scully lauded the siren decision.
"From our standpoint, we've taken our directive from the firefighters and their decision we believe is productive. We're going to do everything we can to help them implement it," he said.
Rosenberger agreed: "We're all about fun. We're not about controversy."
The Bloom is scheduled for April 25-May 1. For more information, visit www.thebloom.com.