Souvenir can is tradition for festivalgoers

The tradition of the souvenir cans dates back to the early 1960s, just a few years after Crown Cork and Seal opened in Winchester. Justin McIlwee/Daily

WINCHESTER — When people attend the Apple Blossom festivities, they expect to see old friends, celebrities, guest speakers and other traditions that have carried on for the 90 years of the festival. One other tradition they also expect to see are the souvenir cans produced by the Crown Cork and Seal Company in Winchester.

The tradition of the souvenir cans dates back to the early 60s, just a few years after Crown Cork and Seal opened in Winchester. The company was approached by festival organizers, who were looking for two different types of aluminum cans: one with a removable top and one with a slot in the top that would serve as a bank.

Much like most Apple Blossom Festival events, the planning for the cans starts months before the actual festivities begin. Crown plant manager Brian Lamb explains that around January, the festival committee submits graphic packages to the plant. The corporate graphics team then lays out the design and sends it back to the festival committee for approval.

After the final graphics are approved, it is put into the computer, and sent to Cheraw, South Carolina, to a plant that forms and decorates the cans with the festival’s annual design. From South Carolina, it then ships to Winchester for Crown to add the top slot for the banks and the pop tops for the drinking cans.

In past years, adding and sealing the tops to the cans has been a long and arduous process. Each top is usually pressed onto the cans by hand, one at a time, taking multiple weeks to complete. This year, however, the cans almost didn’t get finished because Crown’s manual sealing machine, which was made in the 1960s, broke down and was unusable; that’s when the Royal Crown Bottling Company stepped up.

“We reached out to the folks at Winchester RC,” Lamb said, “and they said, ‘Sure, we’ll be glad to try it.’ We shipped the cans there and they were gracious enough to let us go in there on a Friday and use their line and instead of filling with soda that day, they let us use the seamers to actually seam the ends together to make the 360 drinking cups and the banks for the festival. So lots of credit this year to RC Winchester.”

And while a lot of work goes into these souvenirs, Lamb explained that all the work is donated by the various companies involved in production.

“The people that are working in the Crown plant are paid by Crown, so that’s donated labor,” Lamb said. “The RC people are paid by RC, so that’s donated. We had a supervisor come in on his off day to help, the aluminum is donated, inks are donated. The time of the graphics people to set them up and lay them out, that’s donated, so there’s no charge to the festival at all for the end product.”

John Rosenberg, executive director of the festival, lauded Crown for helping the souvenir can tradition survive, despite the setbacks faced by the bottling company.

“When we thought this year that we might not be able to do them, everyone was pretty upset that that tradition could be coming to an end,” Rosenberg said. “We made some changes that made the can a little easier and quicker to do, and they worked incredibly hard to pull it off so that we would have cans again.”

Crown is a company that produces over 30 million cans daily, so when production has to slow down to make the Apple Blossom souvenir cans, it stands to reason that many people would see this as a nuisance. Not Lamb. He said he realizes how important these cans are to the community and wants to continue the tradition that his plant started over 60 years ago.

“We believe it’s really important to be involved in the community,” Lamb said. “Our bulletin board will have dozens of cards after the festival from kids who say, “Hey, thanks for the banks” and it’s always nice to see those come back in. We know it’s important to the community. With us being in the work that we do, we would surely like to contribute cans in the future.”

Contact staff writer Justin McIlwee at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or jmcilwee@nvdaily.com