The Annapolis Valley’s Apple Blossom Festival is widely popular throughout the Maritimes, even nation-wide and beyond. But where did it all begin?
In 1826, the town of Kentville was officially named, being previously known as Horton Corner. For the 100th anniversary of the the event in 1926, town officials organized a three day celebration comprising a parade, a queen, sporting events and a street-wide celebration with performances. Each town in the valley, from Digby straight through to Windsor, was asked to put forth a princess and floats for the parade. The event was so popular that officials organized another celebration in 1928.
During these years, the apple industry was growing and thriving valley-wide. Exports were soaring and orchards were producing record crops. Officials decided in 1932 to make the valley celebrations apple and apple-blossom-themed to promote the industry and celebrate the natural beauty of the Annapolis Valley at the end of May. Apple growers already had, for more than ten years, a dedicated “Apple Blossom Sunday” throughout the valley where residents toured the flowering orchards.
There is some controversy over the origins of the festival. Capt. Ray C. Riley of Hantsport claims that the festival started there in the late 1920s and grew to be too big for the town, so it was taken over by Kentville.
The first festival
It was 2:00 p.m. on Friday, June 2, 1933 when Mayor Lyons of Kentville spoke to a crowd gathered at Memorial Park, officially declaring the start of the first Apple Blossom Festival. More than 1000 school children sang to a 60-piece orchestra. At 4:30 p.m. there was a band concert followed by orchard tours.
On Saturday, a grand street parade was held, followed by two more concerts and another orchard tour. The highlight of the day, however, took place that afternoon when Miss Mary Armour, Princess Middleton, was crowned Queen Annapolisa 1. The calendar of events has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the Grand Parade and crowning still being the main events.
Mayor Lyons noted the event was “an auspicious start to a festival that very well may go on.” Eighty-four years later and still going strong, Mayor Lyons was right.