WINCHESTER — Brad Veach has been a fan of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival for his entire life.
Today, he’s running the show.
Veach, 45, of Frederick County, is the festival’s new executive director. His first day on the job was Monday.
“My cousins would come up for the festival,” he said on Tuesday as he reflected on his childhood memories of The Bloom. “Our house was not very big, so all the kids would camp out because we didn’t have enough room for everybody.”
Veach succeeds John Rosenberger, who has retired after 20 years as the festival’s director but is staying on with the organization in a part-time capacity.
“I love Apple Blossom,” the 70-year-old Rosenberger said on Tuesday.
Veach graduated from James Wood High School and, in 2000, earned a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in sports management from James Madison University. He earned additional certifications from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State before returning to Winchester to work with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He was named director of the department in 2005 and held that position for eight years.
In 2013, Veach launched his own company, Mobile Marketing and Entertainment Solutions Inc., to develop apps and websites for businesses and nonprofits. He also has served as a legislative aide to Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, and a project specialist with the Frederick County Economic Development Authority.
Veach said it was an easy decision for him to sign on with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival and leave Mobile Marketing and Entertainment Solutions to be managed by his father-in-law and business partner, Robert M. Meeker.
“This is a once-in-a-career, maybe lifetime, opportunity,” Veach said. “The festival director position is not something you see come about every couple of years, and there’s only one Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. ... I’m very passionate about the festival on multiple levels.”
He said he will offer fresh ideas to the festival, which was first held on May 3, 1924, as a one-day event to celebrate the community’s apple industry.
“I would like to bring some more sporting events” to augment the festival’s existing tennis tournament, golf tournament and foot races, Veach said. “It’s a great opportunity to expose Winchester and Frederick County to folks outside the area.”
“We’re very fortunate to have a local person like Brad to take over responsibilities for day-to-day management of the festival,” Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival President Barry Carper said on Tuesday. “He clicked on all the right spots for us.”
Carper said more than 70 people, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, applied to become the festival’s new director.
“We kicked off the search in late August, early September,” Carper said on Tuesday. “We were looking for the right person, and that was accomplished very well with Brad coming on board.”
Carper declined to divulge Veach’s salary.
With the 93rd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival just five months away, Veach has hit the ground running. The festival’s theme will be announced this evening, and Carper said officials hope to start announcing celebrity guests for next year’s event as early as January.
“We want to make every effort to get the names of celebrities out this year as early as we possibly can,” Carper said. “We ran into some issues last year.”
He was referring to last spring’s 92nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, when officials were unable to lock in Grand Marshal Elle MacPherson, Sports Marshal Mike Singletary and Firefighters’ Marshal Marilu Henner until two weeks or less before the festival’s signature Grand Feature Parade stepped off on May 4.
Veach has the advantage of starting his new job with an annual budget already in place. Rosenberger said work on the fiscal year 2020 budget began in August, and the board of directors adopted the spending plan last month.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m hanging around, so Barry and I can tell Brad all the stuff that’s been happening since August,” Rosenberger said. “When you are just starting off, there are so many unusual things you need to know and need to find out. You almost have to have someone, or a group of people who have done it before, to give some insight on what happens.”
Carper said Rosenberger’s insight and experience are so valuable that he has been named an honorary member of the festival’s board of directors.
“It’s a very rare thing for the board to do,” Carper said. “We are so fortunate to have John continue contributing to the festival.”
“It’s perfect,” Rosenberger said with a laugh. “You don’t have to vote, you don’t have legal obligations, but you get to go to the meetings and hear what’s going on.”
The 93rd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will be held April 24 through May 3 in and around Winchester. For more information, visit thebloom.com.