Welcoming spring: Blossom Festival 104-year-old Wenatchee tradition

For the Basin Business Journal | April 26, 2024 1:00 AM

WENATCHEE — Apples, apple blossoms, parades, a car show, carnival rides, live music, crafts for children, food booths and plenty of activities will fill the streets of Wenatchee during the 104th Apple Blossom Festival. Activities begin this week, with the grand finale, the Stemilt Grand Parade, May 4. 

There have been some interruptions – events like World War II and a coronavirus pandemic – but for the most part, Apple Blossom has been part of Wenatchee since 1920.

Apple Blossom Festival Director Darci Christoferson said the festival’s purpose, then and now, is to highlight the Wenatchee Valley and the industry that gave it a big part of its identity – and still plays a crucial role in the valley’s economy. 

“It celebrates our community and the apple industry,” she said. 

In addition, Apple Blossom is a sign that the winter is over.

“We come out in the spring and we all reconnect,” Christoferson said. 

“Lovin’ Every Minute of It” is the theme for 2024. 

Memorial Park, at the intersection of South Chelan and Orondo avenues, hosts the festival’s opening event, the Food Fair, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 25 through May 5. Vendors sell – well, what sounds good? Piroshkies? They’ve been there. Tacos? Those too. Arrabbiata salmon? Yeah. Philly steak sandwiches, pot stickers, gyros, brats, pulled pork? Yes, and that doesn’t include dessert, which typically ranges from fruit hand-dipped in chocolate to specialty cakes and pies. 

For those looking for some live music with lunch or dinner (or that mid-afternoon snack), the park also hosts the festival stage, open the same days as the food festival. The stage hosts rock and classic rock, country and roots country, progressive folk, blues, swing and reggae among many other genres. Musicians from Wenatchee and Eastmont high schools, along with Wenatchee Valley middle schools and private schools, will perform mariachi and marimba, jazz, classical chamber, choral and orchestral music.

Local law enforcement and emergency services agencies will celebrate “Chief for a Day” at noon April 25. The event honors chronically or terminally ill children, who become part of their sponsoring agency for the day, complete with a uniform. 

The carnival, Funtastic Shows, sets up April 26 in the parking lot at Wenatchee Valley Mall, 411 Valley Mall Parkway in East Wenatchee. The carnival will be open through May 5.

The first of two weekends of events starts with the Wenatchee Valley Color Rush at 8:30 a.m. April 27. Participants start the course wearing white, but it doesn’t stay that way as runners, walkers and joggers encounter stations with colored powder. Proceeds benefit the Chelan-Douglas CASA program and the Sage Advocacy Center.

The TechniPlex Youth Parade steps out from Triangle Park, 1005 Orondo Ave., at 11 a.m. April 27. Most parade participants are 14 years of age or younger. Children also are the focus of Pepsi-Cola Youth Day April 28. Vendors set up in Memorial Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering activities for children.

The All Service Club and Community Luncheon is scheduled for noon May 1. Apple Citizen of the Year West Mathison of Stemilt Growers, Grand Parade Grand Marshal Julie Lewis, other festival honorees and local community leaders will be recognized. 

The curtain goes up May 1 on the first of 10 performances of “Grease,” the 2024 Apple Blossom musical. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. May 1 through 4 and May 8 through 11 and 2 p.m. May 5 and 11 at the Numerica Performing Arts Center, 123 North Wenatchee Ave. The show is presented by the Music Theater of Wenatchee.

Artists and crafters will be setting up in Memorial Park for the Arts and Crafts Fair May 3 through 5. The juried show typically attracts more than 100 vendors. 

May 3 and 4 are Apple Blossom’s biggest days, starting with the Les Schwab Classy Chassis Parade and Car Show in East Wenatchee. Cool rides of every description cruise down North Georgia Avenue, Grant Road to Valley Mall Parkway at 6 p.m. May 3, followed by a street dance at 8 p.m. The car show is from noon to 4 p.m. May 4 in Eastmont Community Park, and food trucks will set up in the park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds go to the East Wenatchee Rotary scholarship fund. 

The Wenatchee Downtown Kiwanis club will sponsor a pancake breakfast from 6 to 10:30  a.m. May 4, just before the grand parade. It’s a tradition dating back more than 50 years, but the location is new for 2024, the Wenatchee High School Apple Bowl concession area. 

Runners hit the streets of Wenatchee for the annual Confluence Health and Ballard Ambulance Apple Blossom Run, another festival tradition for more than 30 years. Runners take off from the Apple Bowl at 9:40 a.m. and have their choice of 10-kilometer, five-kilometer or two-kilometer distances.

The grandest event starts at 11 a.m., the Stemilt Grand Parade. The first parade actually predates the festival by one year; it started in 1919. Floats, high school marching bands from throughout the region, equestrians, the grand marshal, dignitaries – hey, the grand parade has it all. The parade starts at the intersection of Fuller and Orondo streets and rolls down Orondo and Wenatchee avenues. 

The Wenatchee Red Apple Flyers, a radio-controlled airplane club, will sponsor its annual air show after the parade, weather permitting. The club’s airfield is located at 5201 Fourth St. SE in East Wenatchee. 

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

    High school band members on the 2023 Apple Blossom Festival grand parade route. Apple Blossom 2024 starts this week
    The Apple Blossom Color Rush gets – well, in 2023 it got pretty colorful.
    Live performances of music and dance are a big part of the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee.
    Students from St. Paul’s Lutheran School make their way through the 2023 Apple Blossom youth parade.