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In April, all roads lead to Apple Blossom Festival

By CARY ORDWAY

Late April is an incredibly beautiful time in North Central Washington as the region shakes off what usually is a cold and snowy winter and becomes a kaleidoscope of flowers and gorgeous views of the area’s mountains, hills, lakes and streams. It also is the perfectly chosen time each year of the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival.

All roads lead to Wenatchee this time of year when people from all over the state come to soak up the Central Washington sunshine and enjoy the pageantry of the festival. Events begin the last week in April and conclude with the Grand Parade on the first Saturday in May – an event always highly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.

The Grand Parade brings together marching bands, colorful floats and community groups from all over the Northwest and parades them down a route that offers visitors plenty of good viewing points. The schools that send their bands and drill teams prepare diligently for the event and there is an electric kind of excitement in the air when the dozens of school buses pull into to town from all over the state to begin their staging for the Grand Parade. Even though nearby Leavenworth holds many events each year that bring in the crowds, there is nothing quite like the Apple Blossom Festival, which is almost like a celebration that the long winter is at last over.

The festival began way back in 1919 and was the brainchild of Mrs. E. Wagner, who was the wife of the district’s first apple shipper. She remembered similar festivals in her native New Zealand and patterned the Wenatchee event after those. Back then the event was called “Blossom Days” and lasted only one day. It was not until after World War II that the event was re-named the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival which was done to reflect the importance of the apple industry to the state and region.

Today, the festival lasts 11 days and, according to the Washington Apple Blossom Festival website, includes these attractions:

Carnival: The Festival has America's seventh largest carnival, Funtastic Shows, participate in its annual event. There are approximately 25 rides and games for all age groups, plus lots of food. The Funtastic Carnival is located at Riverfront Park at the foot of Fifth Street on the Columbia River. Golf Tournament: 144 golfers participate in one of the best tournaments in the Northwest at the beautiful Highlander Golf Course.

Food Fair: Held in Memorial Park, at the corner of Orondo and Chelan, the Food Fair runs the entire 11 days of the Festival. A delicious part of the Apple Blossom Festival is the Food Fair; over 20 booths featuring items such as: tasty funnel cakes, hearty barbecue, various ethnic cuisine, crepes, ice cream, espresso, caramel apples, elephant ears, pizza, Caesar salads, sandwiches and much, much more.

Entertainment: Held at the stage in Memorial Park, Entertainment runs the entire length of the festival. A variety of entertainment performs during the lunch and dinner hours on weekdays and all day on both weekends. The entertainment, along with the Food Fair makes Memorial Park the place to be during the Festival. Youth Parade: The Festival's Youth Parade is one of the only parades in the state to feature so many of Washington's youngsters. Over 4,500 children ages 14 & under (and some who are just young at heart) truly have a wonderful time at this celebration! Imagination is the key ingredient to the many fanciful floats, costumes, preschool groups, and other entries which delight over 50,000 spectators along the route, which runs from Triangle Park at the top of Orondo down to Mission and ends at Fifth Street.

Youth Day: The Pepsi-Cola Youth Day has quadrupled in size since the first year it was held in 1986. This free event includes face painting, rubber stamping, and displays by many of our local youth-oriented programs. Organizations will provide a variety of hand-on activities for youth of all ages. Youth Day is held the Sunday after the Youth Parade at Memorial Park from 11am-4pm.

Art 4 Kidz: This valley wide contest is open to kids Pre-K through 12th grade with several different categories. All art entries will be displayed and winners will be announced on Youth Day in Memorial Park. Arts & Crafts Fair: This 3-day event attracts over 140 vendors and 100,000 spectators. All items are handcrafted and categories include clothing, music, fine arts, made for children, wood, pottery, candles/soap, metal, country, jewelry, & leather. The Arts & Crafts Fair takes place in Memorial Park the first weekend of May.

Grand Parade: The cannon sounds promptly at 11:00 am to announce the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival Grand Parade. As always, leading off the parade is the traditional Apple Blossom Fun Run, in addition to the daredevil maneuvers of the Seattle Police Motorcycle Drill team. Bands from throughout the Northwest join with many colorful floats and proud-stepping equestrian units to make this one of Washington's grandest parades, to a crowd of over 100,000 spectators.

Photos, from top: float at Washington State Apple Blossom Festival; big crowds enjoy the festival; lots of food for entire 11 days at Memorial Park

Photos courtesy Washington State Apple Blossom Festival

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other Northwest travel ideas, be sure to check out other Northwest Travel Advisor articles on Northwest zoos, Northwest water vacations, Port Townsend and Seattle attractions.

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