‘A very nice spring walk . . . a 10’
Winchester — The sun was shining and walkers were raring to go Thursday at the annual Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury Breakfast Walk.
One of the first events of the 86th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, the nearly sold-out walk brought 267 people from near and far to travel the facility’s 21/2-mile trail, eat a mouthwatering breakfast, and see the first official appearance of Queen Shenandoah LXXXVI-designate Rachel Lynn Matthews, said Whitney Painter, event chair.
“We are very blessed this year with the walk, because you never know what the weather is going to be like,” she said. “God has definitely blessed us this year.”
While many of the participants set off at 8 a.m. to walk the trail around Westminster-Canterbury, others headed directly inside to feast on the large buffet breakfast.
First-time walkers Shauna Ritenour, 22, of Strasburg, and her mom, Sharon Racey of Strasburg, were enchanted with the festive but relaxing atmosphere. The temperature was just right and there were some flowers in bloom along the way, Ritenour said.
“It was very enjoyable — a very nice spring walk,” she said. “I definitely give it a 10.”
Inside Westminster-Canterbury, the facility embraced this year’s “Love in Bloom” theme stronger on the bloom side than the love, said Laura Hager, resident concierge. There were some hearts scattered around, including three on the block ice sculpture, but the real eye-catchers were the large paper apple blossoms and other pink and green decorations spread throughout the breakfast area and dining room.
“It is nice to have it going from the concept of a three-word tagline to seeing it come together. That is the magic of Apple Blossom,” Hager said.
The love was more in evidence on this year’s T-shirt, which had the image of a quilt with hearts on it, she said. She got the idea from quilts she saw on the Internet site Pinterest.com.
For an extra dose of apple blossom, Hager had 12 Westminster-Canterbury staff members dress head to toe as blossoms. They wore flower hats, green leaf necklaces, floaty pink skirts, white shirts, and green pixie booties. Her mom, Bonnie Hager, sewed all but the shirts and skirts.
“This morning was the first time I saw them all together,” she said. “When they got dressed up today, I said, ‘That is exactly how they looked in my head!’”
Leila Orndorff, sales counselor in the marketing office at Westminister-Canterbury, was especially taken with the “bloom booties” she wore, although she loved the whole outfit and had plenty of positive comments.
“Everybody loves the blooms,” said Orndorff, of Strasburg. “They are colorful, cheerful and really emphasize what Apple Blossom is — just a fun, lighthearted experience every year in Winchester.”
Inside the dining room, the long tables were decorated with a commemorative Apple Blossom can and a box of chocolates for each guest. They also received a goodie bag coming in the front door.
Halfway through breakfast, Matthews stopped by the event after visiting with residents in the skilled nursing area. The queen-designate was on a tight schedule with this the first event of many Thursday.
Matthews, the granddaughter of actor Michael Landon, wore a sleeveless black and white houndstooth dress and 4-inch red high heels. “I brought an extra pair of shoes if I need them,” she said.
She gushed about the welcoming and friendly atmosphere she has encountered since arriving Wednesday. Although she is excited about all the events, she said she was really looking forward to the new Jim Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac ’80s Dance Party and the United First Market Bank Queen’s Ball, both to be held today.
“I have my dress for the ball. It was a really long process to find it, so I am excited to finally get to wear it,” she said.
Right before she left to go meet her maids, Matthews gave a hug to Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury Apple Blossom Queen Dola Tylor, 98, one of the residents.
“You’re the queen!” Tylor said.
“No, it looks like you are,” said Matthews, pointing to the pink crown Tylor wore.
Seeing the queen is always a highlight for many of the people at the walk, said Linda Vickers, queen’s chaperone and a former co-director of the walk. She greets everybody and then walks the room saying hello, taking pictures and signing autographs.
“She is wonderful — just so humble and kind and very family oriented,” Vickers said.
Family and community is what the event is all about for some people. For years, Linda Beavers, 64, of Frederick County, has met several family and friends at the breakfast, and they were back in force again this year.
Excited about the event, Beavers was decked out in pink and green, including a piece of hot pink felt decorated with different homemade Apple Blossom pins that her cousin, Carol Adams, makes special each year.
“For me, it is the kickoff of Apple Blossom. I get to see some of my family that I don’t see all the time,” she said.
The breakfast walk wasn’t quite the same for Carol Adam’s husband, Phil, this year. He had knee replacement surgery in November and wasn’t up for the walk, but the couple still came for breakfast.
A decorated buffet table was lined with fresh fruit, muffins, biscuits, eggs, meat, chipped beef gravy, blintzes, and a variety of other offerings. The ice sculpture was carved with hearts and flower petals spread over it.
The food has become the favorite part of the event for Bill Crump, 86, of Frederick County since his “bones and joints won’t work” as well on the trail anymore. Despite having to give up the walk, he and his wife, Katherine, 88, still enjoy coming to the morning event. “We just love it,” Katherine said. “We love all the people, the entertainment, and the shirts. We laugh and have lots of fun and good food.”
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org