The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Turns 100

This weekend, join us in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the famous Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. Launched in 1924, the festival is celebrating its 97th event overall. This year’s festival kicks off tomorrow, Friday, April 26, and runs for 10 days until its finale on Sunday, May 5. 

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival makes for a great inaugural spring activity for the entire family. Located an hour north of Harrisonburg in Winchester, it’s the perfect distance for your first weekend road trip of the season. Here at Steven Toyota, we’re ready to get the festivities underway. Read on for more about the festival’s history and what you can expect from this year’s events and participants.  

First Bloom: The Early Years of the Festival 

The first SAB Festival was a one-day event that took place a century ago, on May 3, 1924. After the parade marched through the streets of Winchester, Elizabeth Steck was named the inaugural Queen Shenandoah. Since then, 86 total queens have reigned over the festival. Each was crowned at Handley High School except Jane Austin Graham in 2007, whose coronation took place at Victory Church while the school’s auditorium was undergoing renovations. 

The first pageant was held the following year, in 1925. 1929’s festival saw the first Torch Light and Mummer’s Parade, which would evolve into today’s Firefighters’ Parade. The Festival was not held from 1942 to 1945 during World War II (and in 2020 due to COVID) – which explains why we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the SAB Festival, but only its 97th occurrence. 

In 1938, Tom Baldridge was appointed Director General of the festival. A former employee of MGM, Baldridge was instrumental in recruiting celebrities to serve in the role of Grand Marshall. Bing Crosby did so in 1948, and was followed by Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan, Lucille Ball, and others. The list of celebrities who have held a marshal role since is astounding; Mary Tyler Moore, Katie Couric, Dan Aykroyd, Jimmy Dean, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron are just a handful of dozens of household names who have graced the SAB Festival over the years. 

This Year’s Events & Celebrities 

Fast forward to today, where the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival has, itself, blossomed from a one-day curiosity to a sensational, 10-day spectacle. Its earliest events have become staples, integral to an annual tradition that celebrates the pink-and-white apple blossoms and the arrival of spring.  

This year’s list of events is too extensive to list fully, but includes: artisan and crafter shows, wine tastings, tennis, pickleball, golf, and Esports tournaments, races, carnival attractions, live music, pie baking contests, dance parties, fireworks displays, the fire truck rodeo, the firefighters’ parade, and of course, the Festival’s 100th Birthday Celebration. A full calendar of events, from which you can purchase tickets, can be found here. 

The list of celebrities in attendance this year includes Actor and director Jon Huertas serves as Grand Marshal, while morning radio personality is your local Honorary Grand Marshal. Musician Huntley steps into the role of Firefighters’ Marshal, and Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning continues the distinguished legacy of Sports Marshal.  

And for the first time in the history of the SAB Festival, three generations in a family will have served as Queen Shenandoah. Joy Elizabeth Berlanga steps into the role of Queen Shenandoah XCVII, after her mother Tyne Vance Berlanga (2001) and grandmother Susan Ford Bales (1975) both held the honor. 

Kick Off the Festivities at Steven Toyota 

There’s no better way to spend the weekend than at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival – and there’s no better way to roll up to the festival than in a brand new Toyota. Load the kids into the 2024 Toyota Highlander SUV, perfect for exploration and discovery. Or, in honor of the spring season coming into bloom, go green with either the award-winning Toyota Prius.

At Steven Toyota, our primary concern is to keep you on the road safely for all your spring adventures. The automotive experts who comprise our Service Center will tend to your tires, brakes, oil, and more, ensuring nothing stands between you and the countless sights and sounds the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival has to offer. 

April 25, 2024
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