Apple Blossom boom

April 24, 2003

Tyne Vance was queen for only five days, but the impact changed her life.

Small wonder. Everywhere she went during her reign, she was accompanied by four maids and four U.S. Marines who tended to her needs. She traveled by limousine, dined at elegant banquets, received the honor due royalty.

Prior to being crowned, Vance did not lack social status. She is the granddaughter of President Gerald Ford and the daughter of Susan Ford Vance, who herself wore a crown for five days in 1977. But being treated as a queen forced Tyne Vance to see herself in a new way. She became, she said, "a better person."

"I gained more confidence in myself in five days than in the rest of my life," she reflected later. "Every woman should have an experience like this."

Queen for almost a week

Vance's realm encompassed all events of the 2001 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, the annual five-day extravaganza in Winchester, Va., the multiple tracks of which celebrate firefighting, music, sports and Shenandoah Valley history and agriculture.

At first, Vance was not sure she wanted to be queen of what she feared would be a "silly, little" festival in a "rinky-dink town" in Virginia. She had grown up in small-town Virginia and considered all that behind her. But the Apple Blossom Festival surprised her. It was, she said, "classy and elegant."

Vance said she enjoyed her reign, but more than that, she matured. Being queen is hard work, she said, but the rewards are great.

"I had never smiled so much," she said. "But you do it for the people."

Kay Bolliger, president of the Apple Blossom Festival, said that's a common experience of the festival's young queens. Queens are always daughters or granddaughters of nationally recognized parents - Lucille Ball's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, and granddaughter Kate Luckinbill have been queen, as was President Lyndon Johnson's daughter, Luci, Telly Savalas' daughter, Candace, and this year's queen, Katherine Elizabeth Short, daughter of actor Martin Short.

Bolliger said at the Apple Blossom Festival, the VIP roles are reversed and the young queens blossom.

"We always have interesting young women for queen, but they come here not knowing what to expect," Bolliger said. "They live their life in their parents' shadow. Here, their parents are in their shadow."

This year's festival runs from Wednesday, April 30, through Sunday, May 4. Katherine Elizabeth Short will headline a series of events, including the queen's ball, her appearance in the Grand Feature Parade and her coronation as Queen Shenandoah LXXVII.

Music, sports, parades and more

The queen's activities are only one strand of the events at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, according to John Rosenberger, executive director of the festival.

"We typically have five or six things going on the same time," he said. "There's a midway in downtown Old Town Winchester - streets are closed off. The craft show in the Jim Barnett Park is almost a festival within itself. There are parades, sports events, queen's events. The carnival is open through the whole period. There's the circus. In the evenings there are dances."

Rosenberger said the festival organization has planned so many events because thousands of visitors come pursuing very different interests.

"The event runs almost a week. It's huge and pretty much requires the town to shut down," he said. "We figure through the course of the festival, from Tuesday through Sunday, we have 300,000 people come."

Two high-profile parades draw big crowds. The Firefighters' Parade is 5 p.m. Friday, May 2. It's about 2 1/2 hours long, Rosenberger said. The Grand Feature Parade, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, lasts about 3 1/2 hours.

Both parades feature marching bands, some from schools and some from professional organizations. There will also be equestrian units, clowns, politicians shaking hands, Shriner patrols, acrobats and celebrities in cars.

The focus of the Grand Feature Parade, Rosenberger said, is the line of 45 floats that will appear. Most of the bands in this parade are professional, including a Mummers band from Philadelphia, a pipe and drum core, military bands, four bagpipe bands and a Chinese dragon band.

The Firefighters' Parade features high school marching bands and units from more than 150 fire departments. Some units show off their vintage or antique trucks. Others parade with their newest, high-tech equipment. Rosenberger said the only thing missing from the Firefighters' Parade is the sound of sirens. With electronic sirens being so loud nowadays, he said, organizers didn't want to drive spectators away.

Festival features famous folks

The parades always feature celebrity grand marshals who, like the queen's parents, are nationally known figures.

"Corporate sponsorship has allowed us to bring in people like Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore and Dan Aykroyd as grand marshals," Rosenberger said.

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