by Kate Tolley Rizzo
My Bloom Love Story is my Bloom Life story because the festival has been a part of my life since the day I was born. I’m 43 and this is the first Apple Blossom I have ever missed. I was born and raised in Winchester, and even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years, I always, always come home for the Bloom.
Apple Blossom has always been a special time for my family. My brother, Ben, was a “little page” in 1988. Today he is a festival sponsor. I was a princess in the 1997 court with my best girlfriends. We were later bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, and remain friends for life.
Explaining the festival to friends from other states I always say, “It’s better than Christmas!” It’s the time of year when our town is at its most beautiful, I reunite with old friends, and I get to relive the community traditions I grew up loving. I watch my kids chasing the toy vendors down the parade route and I can’t help but see myself and my brother having the time of our lives doing the exact same thing years before.
I live in New Jersey now, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus. When a friend started a “front porch picture project” to raise money for frontline workers by taking family portraits at a safe distance, I knew exactly what my family’s theme would be. Our front porch photo is our homage to Apple Blossom and all it has meant to us over the years.
When I was growing up, my Dad made sure we got a Tolley family photo at the festival every single year. In our porch photo, my son is holding the photo from our last Apple Blossom together before our mom passed (2000). My daughter is holding a photo of her very first Apple Blossom (2006, she was 1 month old!) where she’s being held by her Great Grandma, my Granny, who LOVED the Bloom and made the trip every year for the festival.
How fitting that the theme for the 2020 festival is “Forever Apple Blossom,” because even this year, as the Bloom is on hold, Apple Blossom is forever in our hearts, even in Jersey.
Kate, Mike, Marn & Ben Rizzo