Movie star Sean Astin returns to festival 10 years later

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Sean Astin strolls into the hotel about 10 minutes before his interview is set to begin and starts chatting with the officer escorting him.

It’s Friday morning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Winchester and Astin has just flown in from Los Angeles a handful of hours prior. Although he stands across the room near the lobby of the hotel, where exiting guests pause for a double take, his mention of Taylor Swift is clearly heard.

“I’m a runner,” explains Astin, who ran three full marathons last year. “[M]y children tease me because my playlist is taken directly from their playlists, so I have lots of young artists and people you wouldn’t expect a 43-year-old guy to have in his iTunes roster…and that song, “Mean,” she does is great.”

It’s been 29 years since Astin appeared in “The Goonies” as the main child star, and he now has three children of his own, all of whom are attending the 87th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

This is Astin’s second appearance at the festival. He served as grand marshal in 2004 and has returned to crown his oldest daughter, Alexandra “Ali” Astin, as this year’s Queen Shenandoah LXXVII.

Ali, he said, is designed for the activities that a festival queen goes through. Describing her as “17-going-on-40,” he said she loves meeting people, getting dressed up and giving energy.

“When I told her, I barely got the sentence out, I said ‘Apple Bluh’ and she just lit up and was so excited. It was locked in her memory as something she really wanted to do,” Astin said.

Asked whether his two other daughters will want to continue the dynasty as queen, he said his youngest is “really not fond of dresses,” but both of them have enjoyed watching their big sister soak up the spotlight.

Three generations of the Astin family are celebrating this year’s festival. His father, John Astin, traveled from Baltimore, where he teaches drama at Johns Hopkins University, to attend the queen’s coronation.

Sean Astin described the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival as “presidential.”

“I’ve worked with different presidents and you see the tick-tock, or you see where they go from minute to minute,” he said. “It almost is as involved as the Apple Blossom agenda. And [Ali] is equal to the task…I think I’m just happy for her to have the full experience.”

He said the one thing he remembers most about his last festival experience a decade ago was the “layers of people” along the parade route.

“You see people sitting on the curbside and people standing up and people on the stairs of their house and you see people hanging out of the windows and people up on the roofs, and there’s more people per square foot than I’d ever seen on a parade,” he said. “It reminds me of the ticker tape parades you would see after the Second World War or something. It was just really an incredible outpouring of humanity.”

But with his busy schedule — he said a teacher once described him as “butter on a hot griddle” — he’ll have to miss the parade this year.

Sean Astin’s movie credits include the “Lord of the Rings” triology and “Rudy.” He stars in the movie “Mom’s Night Out,” which will be released next weekend, will appear in an episode of “The Strain” this summer and launched season two of his Vox Populi Radio show on Thursday.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or