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Apple Blossom Festival names queen

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Caitlin Brunell

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Caitlin Brunell, daughter of ex-Redskins QB, to take post at 2011 event

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival picked the daughter of a former Washington Redskins quarterback to wear the crown as queen in this year's Bloom.

Organizers announced Tuesday afternoon that Caitlin Brunell would serve as Queen Shenandoah LXXXIV-designate. The 18-year-old freshman at the University of Alabama is the daughter of Mark and Stacy Brunell. Her father, currently a member of the New York Jets, played quarterback for the Redskins from 2004 through 2008 and led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff victory in the 2005 season.

"I've never been before and so all of it's kind of gonna be brand new to me, so really I'm just looking forward to seeing it all and meeting all these people," Caitlin Brunell said. "I just think its gonna be an overall really good experience."

Brunell heard the news from her mother.

"Well, I was so excited, kinda shocked," she said by telephone at the WINC-FM studios. "I was kinda caught off guard, but I was so excited. It's such an honor."

She received the crown as Miss America's Outstanding Teen in 2008. Brunell participated in pageants when she lived in Fairfax County and had heard about the one associated with the Bloom, but not the festival itself.

"[The festival] was kinda new to me but it all kinda came together, making that connection," she said.

Brunell currently majors in dance, but also studies English, math and theater.

"Well, I have always loved Broadway," she said. "You could call me a Broadway nerd. That's why I'm looking on YouTube when I'm not doing school work."

The Brunell family now lives in New Jersey close to New York City and Broadway, she said. Brunell said she hopes to move to New York after college, audition for parts in plays and "see what happens."

"The dance career after college is kind of a hit-or-miss thing, but I've done it since I was 3 and it really is my passion," Brunell said.

According to a news release from the festival, Brunell was selected to the nationally ranked Crimson Cabaret Dance Team, Dance Alabama, Crimson Belles and the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre. She is a member of the Phi Mu sorority and recently was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Brunell remains active with her charity, Caitlin's Closet, which seeks to provide formal dresses for economically disadvantaged teens. Caitlin's Closet has outfitted 8,000 teen girls since its founding in 2006.

"What I really wanna do even after college is reach out to young women and make them feel better about themselves, make them feel confident and also just meeting girls, you know, even my age, so I'm really looking forward to doing that," Brunell said.

Brunell said she's excited to meet Debbie Reynolds, this year's grand marshal.

"I grew up watching old movies like 'Singin' in the Rain' and my brother, Jake, and I actually watched that and that's part of the reason why he started tapping when he was younger," she said. "I was so thrilled when my mom told me that. That will be such a cool experience."

Brunell said she plans to arrive in Winchester the night of April 27 and stay through May 1 with her mother and possible her three younger brothers. Her father will not be able to join the family for the festival, she said.

She said her 16-year-old brother, Jacob, possibly will crown her queen, which would mark a first for the festival, according to Kay Bollinger. Usually the queen's father or another dignitary crowns the queen.

"My brothers and I are really close, and especially my brother who's right below me so that'll be cool," Brunell said.

The queen's duties include tasting the winning apple pie at the dinner held in her honor.

"I can't say I can make a good apple pie," Brunell said. "My aunt up in Washington is very good, but I'm sure it's great. I'm looking forward to try some."

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