The coming of spring brings a special festival in the Annapolis Valley as the annual Apple Blossom Festival kicks off. The valley is alive with festivities taking place amongst the majestic beauty of the many orchards that are in full bloom.

Their sweet smell fills the valley air with a fragrance so pleasing it seems to put everyone in a good mood. The long cold winter is over and the valley harvest is about to begin. But first we pause for a celebration that spreads throughout the whole valley, The Annual Apple Blossom Festival.
Apple Blossoms Are A Sure Sign of The Apple Blossom Festival In The Annapolis Valley

Brief History of the Apple Industry in the Annapolis Valley

Back in the early 1600's the French settlers living at the Port Royal Habitation planted the first apple seeds to start the first orchard in the Annapolis Valley. The orchards did well in this fertile soil and they were soon enjoying the sweet fruits from their labors.

When the Acadian settlers settled throughout the Annapolis Valley, they planted many apple trees. By the time of the expulsion of the Acadians there were apple trees producing fruit all the way up and down the valley.

In the years after the Acadians the apple trees started to go wild. The New England Planters came and settled the abandoned Acadian farmlands and pruned the old trees and planted new.

An Irish born Loyalist Charles Inglis has been credited for the start of the Annapolis Valley apple industry. On his 5000-acre land grant in Wilmot he set the course for the area to become a major centre for the apple industry. He founded a society to promote agriculture in 1789, but he is best remembered for his variety of apple, the Bishop Pippin.

The Spurr family of Round Hill were also one of the major fruit growing families in the area. Shippy Spurr along with Benjamin Staratt and Ambrose Bent were to become the valley's leading apple exporters.
Apples on a Branch in the Annapolis Valley, NS

The industry grew especially in the Kingston and Greenwood area and by the early 1900's almost every farm in the area contained an orchard. By 1930 there were a total of 150 frost-proof apple warehouses between Annapolis Royal and Windsor. In Kingston there were approximately two million barrels of apples packed and shipped overseas in 1930. Kingston became the leading centre in the valley for the apple industry.

The start of World War II brought a major change to the apple industry in the Annapolis Valley. There were no ships to transport the apples, so the farmers had to turn to other uses for their product. They began using apple evaporators to dry the apples and then the fruit was shipped to feed the troops fighting overseas.

The England market never recovered after the war and the farmers had to look at selling to their own market in Canada. Unfortunately this meant pulling up their old cooking apple trees and replanting them with sweeter varieties like McIntosh and Delicious. Even though the Government helped some with the cost of this, many farmers never replanted their trees.

Brief History of the Apple Blossom Festival

Float in Apple Blossom Parade, Annapolis Valley, NS
In 1933 the valley residents started to look at the potential of a festival celebrating the beauty of the valley at apple blossom time. The Government also seen this as a great tourist attraction and helped out with financial support.

Today the Government still helps out financially, but a booster club with the participating communities raises the bulk of the money. They have also started a Patrons Program since 1986 to encourage the local business firms and organizations to help sponsor.

The original objectives of the Apple Blossom Festival were to make the valley apple industry better known throughout North America and Europe. Also to publicize the scenic beauty of the area and the historic background of Longfellow's Land of Evangeline. They also hoped to provide an opportunity to foster and develop local talent. Over the years they have succeeded very well with their objectives.

As the Apple Blossom Festival grew, so did its popularity. The Associated Screen News of Montreal featured it on a newsreel to be shown in motion picture theaters throughout Canada and the U. S. Over the years several films have been made of the event and of the beauty of the apple blossoms in the spring.

One of the original events started during the first Apple Blossom Festivals and still ongoing today was the selection of a blossom queen. The lucky young lady was chosen from princesses representing several nearby apple growing communities. Queen Annapolisa was chosen by a panel of judges who based their decision on character, poise and personality. The first young lady to be chosen Queen Annapolisa was Mary Armor representing Middleton. Her coronation took place at the dominion Experimental Station in Kentville.

By the time of World War II the Apple Blossom Festival had grown to a fun filled three-day event and had become internationally renowned. After the war a fourth day was added for a Royal Tour through the participating communities usually from Windsor to Digby. The communities would plan a special greeting for the Royal party and honor their princess for her good job of representing them.

The festival was selected by the American Bus Association as one of the top one hundred tourist events in North America from 1988 through to 1991. In 2002 the Royal Canadian Mint presented the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival with a 50-cent sterling silver coin.

The Apple Blossom Festival Today

Little Majorittes Marching in the Apple Blossom Parade in the Annapolis Valley
Since the beginning one of the major events of the Apple Blossom Festival has been the selection of Queen Annapolisa. Each community would pick a princess to represent them at the Apple Blossom Festival. They would then prepare a float for the grand street parade on which their princess would ride.

The princesses would attend several teas held in the participating communities in the days preceding the festival. At every event they are judged on many aspects so the best one would be selected to represent the Annapolis Valley.

Then on the Friday evening there is a Coronation Ceremony and Concert where the crown is passed from the old queen to the new one. The lucky lady that was chosen as Queen Annapolisa would be honored at different events throughout the weekend. She would also represent the Annapolis Valley throughout the year at several events across the Province and sometimes even much farther away.
Marching Band in Apple Blossom Festival Parade in Annapolis Valley

The Apple Blossom Festival weekend is full of activities, the majority of which are held in the Kentville, New Minas, Wolfville area now. The dates for the festival are set five years in advance using the last Thursday of May as the starting date.

The local radio station, AVR along with local businesses sponsor a contest in the weeks before the festival. During the contest valley residents submit names of people that have moved away from the valley, but would love to "Come Home for the Festival". As the title suggest the winner receives an all expense paid trip home for the festival weekend.

Most years the festivities start off on the Saturday with the Apple Blossom Art Show which runs all week the week before at the Greenwood Mall.
The opening ceremonies are held on Thursday night, at different venues like the Annapolis East Elementary School on Marshal Street in Middleton.

Other activities held on Thursday include the Princess Tea at the Waterville & District Fire Department, and the ABF Softball Invitational held at the Kentville Ball Park.
Regimental Encampment set up for the Apple Blossom Festival in the Annapolis Valley
A big hit was the Sentimental Journey "Apple Blossom" Seniors (50+) Dinner, Social & Dance held in 2009. This was held at the New Minas Volunteer Fire Hall on Jones Road. Loran Fevens, AVR Morning Show host of On the Rebound Program (Jan. 1964 - Dec. 1974) hosed this event. Sentimental Journey was a show Loran started 7 years ago on CHTN in Charlottetown and is carried on 7 radio stations today.

The CAN AM All Breeds Equine Emporium & Better Living Show and the CAN AM Equine "The Extravaganza Show" are held at the Hants County Exhibition Grounds in Windsor on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. During the day attend trade shows and clinics on horses and better living and then in the evening enjoy a musical performance of horses dancing under the lights
Horses in Parade at the Apple Blossom Festival in the Annaplis Valley
Also during these days take part in the fun at the Agri Fun held at the Kentville Centennial Arena. First visit the Crafters Market where local artisans will be displaying their hand-made items. Then move on to the Agricultural Village which is a fun, interactive educational event for the whole family. There will be lots to learn about our local food and agriculture from Nova Scotia producers and farm organizations.

The Coronation Ceremony and Concert are held at University Hall, Acadia University in Wolfville. This will include the introduction of the Royal Party, entertainment and the crowning of the new Queen Annapolisa. This fun packed day will close with a terrific display of fireworks at the Kentville Memorial Park.

Saturday morning features the Children's Parade held in downtown Kentville. The Grand Street Parade starts from the Kentville Research Centre and continues through Kentville on Saturday afternoon. The parade is one of Canada's largest street parades with approximately 150 entries. The entries include bands, marching units, equestrian entries, floats including the princesses’ floats from their home communities and floats representing the many businesses and organizations throughout the Annapolis Valley.

One of the objectives of the Apple Blossom Festival is to promote local talent so there are many concerts held both inside and out at several venues throughout the area.

Mainland Amusements are set up with games of chance and many different rides over the entire weekend at the Kentville Memorial Park on Veterans Lane.

On Saturday evening plan to attend "The Big Blossom Battle" which is a battle of ten bands held at Boston Pizza in New Minas. Or you can enjoy 50's & 60's music at the dance and silent auction being held at the Port Williams Community Centre.
Children's Play Area at the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival
Plan to attend the annual Family Fun Day held at Scotian Gold in Coldbrook on Sunday. There will be lots of entertainment and fun for the whole family. Watch the fireman and woodsman demonstrations or test your skills in the Transport Canada Dumb Car.

Another event to be sure to attend is the annual Apple Blossom Duck Race held at the White Rock Canal in Gaspereau.

In 1933, the first year of the festival, a Mr. G.R. Palmeter asked a rep from the Royal Albert China Company of England about creating a pattern called "Blossom Time". This design would tie in with the Annapolis Blossom Festival here in the valley.

A design was soon submitted taken from a picture of the Ralph Eaton Farm of the apple blossoms out in full bloom. The company got right to work producing the "Blossom Time China" line. This line became very popular and it is still in great demand all over the world today. The china was made right up to 2001 when the line was discontinued. Today a single piece of this china brings a good price at the local auctions.

So if you have some vacation time at the end of May - first of June make sure you take in one of Canada's favorite festivals, The Apple Blossom Festival. I know you would not be disappointed. Just to see the beautiful orchards and smell their sweet smell is worth it, but you will get a great festival with lots going on besides.

To find out more and to see a Schedule of Events for this year check out the Official Apple Blossom Festival Website.

Leave The Apple Blossom Festival Page to Look At Other Great Annapolis Valley Festivals.

Or return to the Annapolis Valley Spring Events Page to see what else is happening in the Annapolis Valley