The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® has used the concept of Official Themes going back nearly to the first Festival; although, that use was generally sporadic in the 20th century. The Festival celebrated the 350th Anniversary of the settlement at Jamestown in 1957. After that, the Festival celebrated the entries of Alaska and then Hawaii into the Union. Big anniversaries tended to be “themed” over the years, like the Festival’s Golden 50th Anniversary in 1977. In 1998, the Souvenir Program Book cover featured an orchard scene with stacks of bee-boxes, placed there to pollinate the trees. The 1998 Souvenir Pin was an image of a bee-box. In 1999, the Festival celebrated the area’s connections to George Washington with images on the cover of the Souvenir Program Book, the Souvenir Pin, the 1999 Christmas ornament, and even carried this through with a Festival appearance by a costumed actor portraying the General. The following year celebrated the millennial year of 2000 in the same manner; and, in 2001, a Patsy Cline theme helped to create our first really famous catchphrase: “Crazy for the Bloom!” By the 21st century, an opportunity had been created, the momentum was there; and, now, the announcement of each Festival’s unique Theme, and the unveiling of the accompanying artwork, has become an event unto itself; and, it is seen as the “Official Kickoff” for each new Festival!
In 2017, the Festival is justifiably proud to be celebrating its 90th Anniversary. The first Festival was held in 1924; but, there were no Festivals held in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 due to the global conflict of World War II; and, this explains the seeming discrepancy in the arithmetic. From the beginning, this year’s Theme Committee attempted to look back to the Festival’s roots….to 1924; but, not in a backward-looking, nostalgic way. The Committee was trying to find the links between what made the Festival exciting in 1924; and, what makes it exciting to this day. They were trying to find the common thread that has run through these celebrations from the first one to the ninetieth one. Costumes and designs may change; but, anticipation, awe, inspiration, and joy will be with us forever. First, a new nickname for Winchester was brought to the table by our new Festival President, Mike Stanfield. For those magical ten days every spring, we are more than the Apple Capital….more than the Land of Pink and Green….we are “Bloomtown!” And, how can we best distill anticipation, awe, inspiration and joy into one short, easy word? The Committee decided that, then as now, the word “Wow!” was our byword. Our 2017 Festival Theme: “BLOOMTOWN: Bringing the ‘WOW’ for 90 YEARS!”
The artwork accompanying the 2017 Theme was designed by Erik Zimmerman of White Spider Design. Against a starry sky, in classic Art Deco lettering is the title: “BLOOMTOWN: Bringing the ‘WOW’ for 90 YEARS!” Close examination shows that the double-O in “Bloomtown” is actually the number 90. Below this is a skyline of classic Old Town Winchester buildings that would have already been famously familiar in 1924: the clock tower on Rouss City Hall, the dome of the Handley Library, the tower at Rouss Fire Hall with “Old Jake,” the clock tower on the old Frederick County Courthouse, and the bell tower at Christ Episcopal Church. These are backlit against the night sky by the famous Festival Fireworks; and, the number 90 appears again in the sky. At the bottom, is a classic Art Deco informational display telling us: “90th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®; April 28 – May 7, 2017; Winchester, Virginia.” Above this, in the middle of the design, on either side of a beautifully iconic apple blossom, are photos from the first Festival in 1924, showing that pomp and pageantry have been with us since the beginning; and, that we are still true to the Festival Spirit across all these years.