By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Bring sunscreen to this year's Bloom, warn city fire and rescue officials.
Whether spectators of the 85th annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival need sunblock depends on climate, though organizers say they hope the weather stays sunny.
Representatives with several city agencies held a press briefing Thursday to inform the public about preparations for the festival, which begins today with the United Bank Bloomin' Wine Fest. The event runs through Saturday. Other festival-related attractions continue through the week culminating in the Firefighters Parade on Friday and the Grand Feature Parade on May 5.
Deputy Fire Marshal Jeremy Luttrell, of the Fire and Rescue Department, warned people not to use their own fireworks during the professional display scheduled for May 4 at John Handley High School after the Firefighters Parade. Authorities will enforce fireworks ordinances, Luttrell said.
In the event of a medical emergency spectators may go to the first-aid center located at Cameron and Gerrard streets, according to Luttrell. Fire and rescue workers around the festival will be wearing a badge to identify themselves.
Among the several safety tips Luttrell gave for spectators, the department advises that people stay hydrated and bring sunscreen for use during the festival.
"I hope Jeremy's right about needing sunscreen," said John Rosenberger, executive director of the festival. "Hydration. That sounds good to me. A lot better than umbrellas and things like that."
Rosenberger noted that each year people ask about the weather and its effect on the festival. But the Bloom's events go on rain or shine unless the weather poses a physical danger, he said.
"Basically if the weather's just crummy but not dangerous we just have to roll with it," Rosenberger said.
The Winchester Police Department will have officers out in force during the festival, according to Lt. Amanda Baker. But the department urges residents and other festival-goers to refrain from calling 911 with questions about detour routes or other related matters. Instead, people are asked to call 545-4737 or 545-4738.
The Department of Public Works began its preparations for the Bloom in mid-January planning for trash boxes and inventory checks to determine if the city had enough barricades, according to Division Manager Tom Denney. In March the department reviewed routes for detours and parades, then addressed any trees that needed trimming, sidewalk painting or potholes.
Public works staff will close Piccadilly Street between Cameron and Braddock streets beginning Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to allow vendors to start setting up their equipment on the Midway, Denney advised. Work continues with mowing, patching and cleaning.
The Winchester Parking Authority Director Samantha Anderson also provided information on the festival.
Reserved parking tickets for Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, good for all four garages are on sale at the George Washington Autopark from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Wednesday. Garages will be open May 4 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The autoparks reopen at 8 a.m. on May 5.
New this year: The Braddock Autopark will remain open and automated during the festival but no attendant will be on duty. The fee to exit the autopark on May 4 will be $10. Those people paying with cash must use the walk-up station or, by credit card, use the in-line station. However, access to the garage on May 5 is restricted to those people who have bought a reserved parking pass. Those who do not have a pass will be directed to park at the Loudoun Autopark. The fee to park May 5 is $15. Access to the Loudoun Autopark will be restricted to Baker Street rather than Fairfax Lane. Those people wishing to use the Court Square and George Washington autoparks must use Kent Street to access the garages.