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Posted April 24, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

City officials readying for Apple Blossom crowds

By Joe Beck

WINCHESTER -- City officials announced their plans Wednesday for keeping this year's Apple Blossom Festival safe, orderly and fun when it begins next weekend.

Traffic control and crime prevention, as always, occupy prominent places in festival preparations.

Parking bans will kick in throughout the downtown at 7:30 a.m. May 3 and remain in effect until 8 p.m. May 4. Stretches of some streets will be closed as early as 5 p.m. Thursday.

The traffic detour route takes effect at 3:30 p.m. May 3 and will remain in place until the end of the Firefighter's Parade around 8:30 p.m. The detour returns again at 7:30 a.m. on May 4 and will remain until the end of the Grand Feature Parade around 7 p.m. Maps, detours and parking information are available at the city's website, www.winchesterva.gov.

Winchester Police Capt. Douglas Watson said at a press conference that "well over" 200 law enforcement officers will be assigned a variety of tasks, from keeping an eye out for terrorists to enforcing laws against public drinking of alcoholic beverages and possessing open containers of alcoholic drinks.

"There is a common misconception out there that it is OK to drink during the course of the Apple Blossom Festival," Watson said. "There are specific places and times you can do that. However, there is no change in the actual law for the week of the Apple Blossom Festival that applies to general areas open to the public."

Watson said the terrorist bomb that exploded during the Boston Marathon has had a minor impact on law enforcement planning for the festival. For the most part, police will follow the same practices they have used since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Watson said.

"We are going to have a little bit of a change in how we utilize some of our resources, which I'm not necessarily going to get into the specifics on," Watson said.

He added that Winchester police have about 12 officers certified as experts in preventing and responding to terrorism incidents and "they have been assigned to work with our other officers to make sure they're up to speed."

John Rosenberger, the festival's executive director, said he projected the crowd to peak at 150,000 to 200,000 by the afternoon of May 4.

Rosenberger said weather and the quality of celebrities are the biggest factors in determining crowd size. He said he has been encouraged by the reactions he has received so far to the scheduled appearances of country music star Scotty McCreery and Jep Jessica Robertson of the "Duck Dynasty" cable TV reality show.

"We've been getting quite a buzz off of Scottie McCreery," Rosenberger said. "We've been getting quite a buzz off of the "Duck Dynasty" people. If we have them and a beautiful day like this, there'll be a big crowd."

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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