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Queen designate: Winchester feels like 'home'

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival queen designate Alexandra "Ali" Astin, 17, speaks during an interview after her arrival in Winchester on Wednesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Josette Keelor

It was rainy and foggy on the evening Queen designate Alexandra "Ali" Astin arrived in Winchester.

She came for the pink and green of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, but she didn't need to see it to know it was there. She remembered it from 10 years ago, when her father Sean Astin was grand marshal.

"I remember a ton in vivid detail, but it was just a blur of pink and green and fun," she said.

She said being in Winchester reminds her of her mother's home in Indiana, where "people know each other."

"I feel like that kind of atmosphere is what made me want to be a part of it when I was older."

At a welcome dinner in Winchester on Wednesday night, Ali met her chaperone Kay Ross, who was also escort to the Astin family 10 years ago.

Ross said she remembered when Ali told her she wanted to be queen one day.

Ali, 17, said she's excited for the whole experience, but questions about her ultimately returned to talk of her family: Her younger sisters, "who are cooler than I'll ever be;" her mother -- "I would saint her if I could" -- and her father, "the best runner on the planet."

"I try to follow in his footsteps, literally, as well as I can," she said.

She described her grandmother, Patty Duke, as "eccentric and wonderful" and said she can't wait to knight her grandfather John Astin at her coronation on Friday.

She also talked about the acting work she and her father have done together.

For this year's animated film "Ribbit," "we just did this voice over part where I got to be a princess, and I said, 'Well I'm a queen now.'"

She was only 3 in her first acting role, as the blonde, curly-haired daughter of hobbit Samwise Gamgee, but Ali remembered the two hours it took to attach her hobbit feet and the eight hours to film a 10-second scene she kept messing up by trying not to get her hobbit feet wet in a puddle.

Ali is on the cheerleading squad at Oaks Christian High School in Los Angeles, she just returned from singing at Carnegie Hall with her school choir, and on Friday will be crowned Queen Shenandoah by her father.

In anticipation of her coronation, planned for 1:30 p.m. Friday, she said the "cheer smile" she plans to use will return to California with her as a queen smile.

"I absolutely love it," she said, "getting to be a role model."

For more information on the festival, visit www.thebloom.com.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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