Celebrating Friday at the Bloom

Louis Wilson of Inwood, West Virginia, carries a funnel cake along the parade route as a line of fire trucks heads down Cork Street during the Firefighters' Parade on Friday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – The 89th Apple Blossom Festival kicked into high gear Friday with lunches, parties and the Firefighter’s Parade, ending with a bang at the fireworks show on the Handley High School campus.

The coronation of Ahna Cameron, Queen Shenandoah LXXXIX, brought a gathering of her new subjects to observe the Friday afternoon ceremony before the parade stepped off.

The queen’s court of princesses, maids and officiates made their grand entrances, starting the traditional Apple Blossom pageant with plenty of fanfare. Delegate Chris Collins played his role as minister of state, and Lt. Col. Ronald McManus Jr., director of cadet operations at Randolph-Macon Academy, served as the queen’s escort.

Ahna received her crown from her grandmother, Barbara Cameron, before knighting Firefighters’ Marshal Jeff Hammond with a cry of “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Accepting his title with gusto, Hammond thanked the audience for a warm welcome, likening it to a homecoming.

Danielle Thompson, 18, color guard captain for Handley High School's marching band, gets as shot of water while parading down Braddock Street during the Firefighters' Parade on Friday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I’ve done a lot of things in my career, but this definitely is at the top of the list of having the opportunity to see what the tradition is all about,” he said.

During the ceremony, princess escort Caleb Hutson collapsed and received aid from officials at the event. Mark Carey, serving as prelate for the ceremony, led the audience in prayer as they assisted him offstage.

Before the Royal Command Performance started, Hutson walked out onto the balcony to a round of applause and rejoined the princesses and other escorts in the audience.

To close off the coronation, the Handley Singers performed their Flashback Friday show for those in attendance, singing and dancing to some classic hits from the 1950s and ’60s.

Visiting women enjoyed lunch, drinks and the music of Winchester band Souled Out during the Bloomers’ Luncheon in the afternoon. Despite the colder weather, a few tailgating attendees popped some bottles and poured drinks before the Tolley Dental tent opened at 11 a.m.

Jordan Baker, 6, of Gore munches on popcorn as she watches the firefighter's parade Friday night in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

Tami Woerl is from Boyce and said she’s been tailgating before the event for four years, toasting the Bloom with mimosas and snacks as attendees line up to enter the luncheon.

“Usually the parking lot’s full, but I guess nobody wanted to stand out in the cold this year,” she said. “This year it only looks like maybe a dozen.”

She said she’ll be attending a few other Apple Blossom events later on this weekend, including the Grand Feature Parade and a few parties with friends and family.

Taking a sip of her mimosa from a festive pink glass with a green straw, Stacey Gonzalez Herrera said the luncheon is a zany and fun opener to her Apple Blossom weekend.

“You wouldn’t normally see people wearing crazy hats or flowers, but it’s normal during Apple Blossom, and especially the Bloomers’,” she said. “It’s an excuse to be silly and young … and drink!”

Members of the Sherando High School marching band parade down Cork Street during the Firefighters' Parade on Friday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

Tammy Phillips and Marilyn Wilkins, both from Frederick County, are Apple Blossom and Bloomers’ Luncheon veterans. They said they’ve hit a number of events already and visited at least one private party every day.

“We even created a toga party at Piccadilly’s this year,” Phillips said. “I think we’re going to do it again next year because everyone had so much fun doing it, they all were so pretty.”

They said the festival is a time for them to reconnect with friends from all over, and some are friends they only see when they come to Winchester for the Bloom. Wilkins said there are a few newbies in the group who they’ve brought to enjoy the fellowship and music.

“This is a favorite, because Souled Out, when they’re here, a lot of people want to come to dance, they can kind of let loose,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com