WINCHESTER – The line for tickets starting forming before 7 a.m.
Three hours later, it was 50 yards long and filled with hundreds of people eager to be part of the 91st Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.
Friday morning’s grand opening of the festival’s Official Souvenir and Ticket Outlet signaled the start of retail ticket sales for many of the most popular events. The festival will be held April 27 through May 6 in and around Winchester.
When the store opened at 10 a.m., enthusiastic buyers were let in 10 at a time.
“I want to go to the Bloomers’ Luncheon,” said Carol Hinkle-Stultz of Winchester. “I’ve never been, and every time I’ve tried to go, tickets were sold out. So I was determined to get them this morning.”
“I’m here for the Prayer Brunch,” said Marty Proffitt, of White Post. “It’s always a good event and our church [Fellowship Bible Church in Frederick County] sponsors it. I’m really anxious to go.”
The biggest demands on Friday were for the Ferguson Bloomers’ Luncheon and the Prayer Brunch presented by Knouse Foods/Musselman’s, both to be held on the morning of May 4.
Although tickets for many events are offered online at the festival’s website, tickets to the Bloomers’ Luncheon and Prayer Brunch could only be purchased in person.
“They told me I had to come here and stand in line if I wanted a ticket,” Proffitt said from her position about an hour away from the door.
Jeff and Donna Kerns arrived shortly after 7 a.m. to secure a spot near the front of the line.
“My mom’s always wanted to go [to the Prayer Brunch] but she’s never made it there,” Donna Kerns said. “She’s 76 this year, so we wanted to make sure she could go.”
Jamie Jones, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, said she “drew the short stick” and was selected to wait in line for Bloomers’ Luncheon tickets for her and three friends.
The maximum number of tickets sold to the Bloomers’ Luncheon and Prayer Brunch was four per person. That meant another group seeking 27 tickets to the Bloomers’ Luncheon had to send seven people to stand in line starting shortly after sunrise.
One of them, Dave Alley, of Winchester, won’t even be attending the women-only event.
“Got it for the ladies. That’s all that matters,” Alley said.
Leila Gillispie, manager of the festival store, said long lines on opening day are standard, so she recruited 25 volunteers and store employees to help handle the rush.
When asked if she expected any festival events to sell out on Friday, she said, “Yes. With the long line out here, yes.”
Louann Thompson, past president of the festival, was stationed near the rear of the store, where customers can buy banners, jewelry, cups, decorations and just about anything else that can be colored green, pink and white.
“A lot of this is homemade from local people,” Thompson said, explaining that several independent artisans sell their wares on consignment at the festival store.
This is the first year the pop-up store has been located in the Pineville Plaza Shopping Center, at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Weems Lane.
“We rented the store about a month ago, but it only took us about two weeks to get everything displayed,” Thompson said.
Last year’s location in the former home of Mountain Trails at 212 E. Cork St. was great, she said, but there wasn’t enough parking.
“This has great parking,” Thompson said of Pineville Plaza. “Visibility might be an issue this year, but based on the line of people, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
The 91st Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival’s Official Souvenir and Ticket Outlet will be open from now until the end of the festival at 2218 Wilson Blvd. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit the festival’s website at thebloom.com.