The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival is one of the most popular events in Wenatchee, WA. It attracts over 100,000 people to the city each year. The festival is more than a celebration of Wenatchee apple blossoms, however, but a way for the community to come together.
The Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival is usually scheduled during the last weekend of April and the first weekend in May. This year, the festival has been postponed until it’s safe to hold public gatherings.
Read on to learn more about the festival and its rich history.
What were the origins of the Apple Blossom Festival?
The Washington Apple Blossom Festival started with Ernst and Susan Wagner. Ernst was an apple farmer who struggled to make a profit even if Wenatchee was an established apple-growing town. Back in 1905, however, it wasn’t as popular as other apple producers in the country.
Disgruntled by the town’s limited opportunities, Ernst decided to look into exporting the fruit to the Pacific. He had 3,000 cases left over for the season and didn’t want to sell them for only 20 cents a case. He contacted a shipping agent in Seattle who agreed to transport his surplus to Australia.
Ernst and his family sailed along with the shipment. Upon their arrival, he learned that Australians were unhappy with the condition of the apples that were imported from California. Most of the fruit was damaged and arrived badly packed.
To avoid having his apples lumped together with the shipments from California, Ernst decided to market his product as Washington State or Wenatchee apples instead of American apples. His marketing succeeded and he employed the same strategy with dealers in New Zealand and Fiji.
It was on a trip to New Zealand that Ernst met his future wife, Susan Callahan. Susan moved to Wenatchee in 1914 and officially founded the Apple Blossom Festival a year later. For 25 years, she was involved with the festival and helped shape it to what it is today. The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival used to be a part of the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce but it has now become its own independent organization. Today, the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival is one of the oldest major festivals in Washington State.
The history of apples and Wenatchee, WA
Commercial apple planting started in 1884 with the Peterson Orchard. After the Great Northern Railway Company completed laying down tracks, apples started shipping to Seattle. The apples were so well received that by 1902 growers started calling Wenatchee the “Apple Capital of the World.”
The title was a way to market the city as the premier apple-growing destination. Today, it has transcended its roots as an advertising slogan and has become a part of the community identity, as well.
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