(Who originated the Apple Blossom Festival? It wasn’t Kentville, Hantsport resident Ray Riley said when he telephoned recently in response to a May 19 column headed Kentville: Home of the Blossom Festival. The same column brought an e-mail response from Kentville historian, Louis Comeau, with some Blossom Festival history.)
Hantsport, not Kentville, should be recognized as the original home of the Apple Blossom Festival claims a longtime resident of the town.
Ray Riley says that the first celebration of the apple blossoms in the Annapolis Valley started in Hantsport sometime late in the 1920s and “ran for years before Kentville took it on.”
According to Mr. Riley, the Hantsport celebration began as an Apple Blossom Festival ball that was held at a warehouse on Station Street. Riley recalls that the warehouse was decorated with an apple tree that was in blossom. “Every year the owner of the warehouse, Laurie Sanford, would cut down an apple tree that was in blossom and reassemble it in the warehouse,” Riley says. The ball and the apple tree were an annual fixture.
Mr. Riley recalls that the blossom ball was a popular event that kept on growing year after year and was soon too big for Hantsport. “That’s when Kentville took it over,” he said.
A former Hantsport Mayor, the late B. T. Smith, apparently was conversant with the facts regarding the town’s apple blossom celebrations. Mr. Riley remembers hearing a speech by Mayor Smith in 1948 in which the latter noted Hantsport’s early blossom celebrations. We (Hantsport) were first, Mayor Smith said. The speech was made at the Kentville ball park on Apple Blossom Festival parade day.
In his book on the Apple Blossom Festival, Harold Woodman mentions the possible Hantsport connection. Mr. Woodman notes that the Hantsport celebration started two years before Kentville became the center of festival activities.
And Louis Comeau Writes
“Your article of May 19th on the origins of the festival was interesting; however, having done extensive research into festivals such as ours, I have found no less than 26 others. Three of these predate our festival.
“First is the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival (which started in 1920); you can visit this site at www.appleblossom.org. This festival was based on an earlier event in New Zealand (but I have not been able to establish what kind of festival this was as of yet).
“Second is the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival (which started in 1925); this site address is thebloom.com. The organizers of our festival, all being in or near the apple industry might have known of these other festivals; especially Frank Burns who was in the newspaper business and probably had access to other editors or newspapermen throughout North America. Burns might have heard about these other festivals and along with others in the community decided to establish our own festival. If you visit these sites listed above you will note the similarity to our own festival.
“The third festival was at Fayetteville, Arkansas (started in 1923) but at the present moment I cannot supply you with an Internet address.
“Hope this sheds some light on the topic of who was first. I believe that we were early organizers in the multitude of other festivals but were only copying earlier events.”