When Kentville hosted a summer carnival in 1926 to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the groundwork was laid for the first apple blossom festival some seven years later. When I wrote about the anniversary last week, I noted that the celebration established a format that was used for the apple blossom festival. I assumed that the popularity of the anniversary carnival inspired the festival founders to set up a similar program for the first and subsequent blossom celebrations.
However, this assumption may be incorrect. Kentville historian Louis Comeau tells me he’s discovered blossom festivals predating ours. “In connection with the 1st summer carnival and its similarity with the Apple Blossom Festival,” Louis wrote via e-mail, “I had previously done some research in this area. I have found several much older Apple Blossom Festivals that are located in North America. Washington State’s 1st festival was in 1920, Fayetteville’s in Arkansas in 1923, Shenandoah’s in Virginia in 1925, and Doniphan County in Kansas in 1925.”
Louis said he often wondered if the late Frank Burns, one of the blossom festival founders and a newspaperman, had heard of these earlier events through the newspaper grapevine, and had “conveyed the idea to the other founding members.” Based on what he’s found in his research, Louis believes the idea for an apple blossom festival may have originated in New Zealand in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Attached to Louis’ letter was a tidbit he discovered about Hantsport hosting an apple blossom festival in 1932. This was one year before Kentville staged what is now called the Valley’s inaugural apple blossom festival. During the Hantsport festival a blossom queen was selected, Miss Roamonde Shankel.
It would seem from the above that the apple blossom festival founders simply took a great idea and expanded on it. Surely they were aware of earlier blossom festivals. And just as surely, they saw that the format used during Kentville’s 100th anniversary celebration was tremendously popular and they decided to adopt it. With a bit of research, we’ll probably find that some of the organizers of the anniversary celebrations had a hand in establishing a blossom festival.