The Kentville Summer Carnival “paved the way for the Apple Blossom Festival,” Harold Woodman stated in his history of the festival, published in 1992. Woodman also notes that an event with an apple blossom theme was held in Hantsport before 1933, the year the festival started in Kentville. He suggests that perhaps the summer carnivals and the Hantsport celebration were the ancestors of the Apple Blossom Festival. Well before the Blossom Festival started, the Valley celebrated Apple Blossom Sunday with a tour of Valley orchards. A popular event, the Sunday tour was incorporated into the first blossom festival.
Kentville Jeweller Bob Palmeter was one of the early presidents of the Apple Blossom Festival, the second actually, and he’s credited with designing the famous Blossom Time bone china pattern which has been a Valley favourite since the 1930s. Palmeter’s creation of china with an apple blossom theme wasn’t original, however, despite numerous claims that it is. Bone china with apple blossom themes existed before Palmeter’s creation hit the market and can be found in collections around the Valley.
Held at 9:30 in the morning on Saturday during the first Apple Blossom Festival in 1933, the grand street parade was the highlight of the festivities, and it set the format of future celebrations. An advertisement in the blossom magazine advised the public that the grand street parade, “with Valley Queens and ladies-in-waiting,” would proceed through Kentville accompanied by five bands.
During the second festival the grand street parade was called the “Parade of the Blossoms,” featuring “school children in descriptive and pageant formation.” The parade was held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. A second grand street parade was held the afternoon of “Apple Blossom Monday.” Dubbed as the “Grand Feature Parade – the trail of the pink petals,” this event featured floats, bands, princesses from Valley towns, the military and so on.
A poem by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, the author of the History of Kings County, graced the cover of The Advertiser‘s first apple blossom magazine. The poem was titled Orchards in Bloom. As well as being a historian, Eaton was a noted minor poet in his era.
That first apple blossom magazine was published on May 18, 1933, and contained 36 pages, plus a two colour cover in green and apple blossom pink. As was to be expected, the stories and articles in the supplement dealt with various aspects of the apple industry. One story in the supplement saluted the various towns of the Annapolis Valley whose livelihood was connected to the growing and shipping of apples.
There were only a handful of events, many of them musical and sacred, during the first blossom festival in 1933 and no more than 30 when the second festival was held. But some 50 years later more than 100 separate events were taking place during the festival period. Harold Woodman writes that on the 50th festival there were 115 events; like the first festival, some of the events were musical, some sacred.
Through the years, some of Nova Scotia’s best known authors were early contributors to The Advertiser‘s apple blossom magazine. Historical writer Roland Sherwood was one. For many years the supplement featured short stories by one of Nova Scotia’s greatest writers, Will R. Bird. Later, Ernest Buckler was a regular writer for the supplement.