John Handley was born in County Wexford in Ireland in 1835. He emigrated with his family to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1850. Handley worked as a carpenter, before studying law and working in Washington DC for President James Buchanan. He settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania where he practiced law, eventually becoming a judge.
Handley showed great concern for those less fortunate than himself and was known for his charitable actions and the many donations he made, which helped students in many schools and universities complete their educations. During the Civil War, Handley sympathised with the South and was a great admirer of Stonewall Jackson, one of the best known confederate commanders. Jackson was based in Winchester for several months during the course of the war and I’m assuming this is the reason why Handley made many trips to Winchester and grew to love the town and the friends that he made here.
On his death in 1895, Handley bequeathed $250,000 dollars to the city of Winchester. The money was invested and when the estate grew to the value of $500,000 dollars it was to be used to build a library for the people of Winchester.
Handley stipulated that the remainder of the estate be used to build schools for the education of the poor. In 1922 construction began on John Handley High School, using funds from Handley’s estate.
Handley’s love of Winchester was so great that he purchased a burial plot in Winchester’s Mount Hebron Cemetery. He wanted his final resting place to be as close as possible to the many soldiers who lost their lives in and around this area during the Civil War.
Every year, in honour of Handley’s bequest to Winchester and his particular interest in the education of the city’s children, a parade is held from the centre of old town Winchester to Handley’s grave in Mount Hebron Cemetery. Children from the six schools that make up the Winchester Public School district, are selected to take part in the march. Dressed in their very best clothes, carrying flowers to lay at the memorial, the children parade solemnly through the town to Handley’s grave, where they listen to various school officials pay tribute to the man who helped make their education possible.
This year a little Kiwi joined the parade…
If you were hoping to read all about our trip to Puerto Rico…apologies…am still sifting through photos but promise to share something soon. It’s Apple Blossom this weekend and the town is already abuzz. We have decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head away. We are going to Pennsylvania to visit two very iconic but very different American attractions – Hershey World and Gettysburg. That might need two separate blog posts!!
We’ve just got home from the Winchester Christmas Parade. The girls had an absolute blast and loved riding the float and singing Christmas songs. As they were on one of the ‘better’ floats they came right at the end, just before the big red man – all very exciting.
It felt good to be seeing the parade for the second time – time to stop and think how far we’ve come since our first parade, when we’d only been here a few weeks and everything was still so new and so strange. To be honest I could probably just repost all the photos I took at last year’s parade – not much had changed! Except, of course, the addition of a couple of Kiwis!
And so that’s all done for another year. As soon as Olive and Edie got in the car they were already debating possible themes for next year’s float!
Richard spent much of Sunday playing with his new mountain biking mates, so the girls and I indulged in a little playing of our own. We spent the morning driving around Winchester capturing some of the Halloween props, decorations and displays that have been popping up all over the city.
Here’s a wee taste for you…if you click on the photo you will see a bigger version…
Olive and Edie are very excited about Halloween this Thursday – but are even more excited about what we are going to be doing on Friday. Exactly three years ago this Friday we left New Zealand on the start of our big overseas adventure. We broke the journey to Belgium with a stop in Hong Kong where we visited Disneyland. So on Friday history is going to repeat itself somewhat – we are heading to Orlando, Florida…home of…Disneyworld! Say tuned for much Micky Mouse madness!!
We had grand plans on Saturday to head into DC and attend the Library of Congress National Book Festival. It sounded wonderful – loads of great author talks, books signings, heaps for the kids – but by Friday afternoon we were all exhausted and Richard had to fly to Belgium late Saturday so I made an executive decision to skip it. We should have at least two more chances to experience the festival before we leave the US, so we opted for a quieter day at home which we hoped would culminate in victory on the water in San Francisco! Ha – those plans were foiled.
At Marker-Miller you can pick your own fruit, take a wagon ride and sit on a rocking chair on the porch whilst the kids run around in the play area. It’s always busy and a quick glance at the licence plates in the car park tell you that people come from many other states to load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, and the baked goods, cider and preserves you can buy in the shop. It reminds me a lot of living in Hastings and going with Mum to get our produce from one of the numerous orchards not far from where we lived.
Picking apples in the US requires the use of technical vocabulary – specifically the words bushel and peck. Bushels and pecks are measures of volume, with a peck being equivalent to 2 gallons and a bushel being equivalent to 4 pecks or 8 gallons. So if you ever wondered just what the “peck” Peter Piper was picking, now you know!
When the girls were very little we used to visit the library at least once a week and we’d always come home with kids music CDs. Our library had a great selection and the wonderful Dan Zanes was one of our favourites. We loved to sing along to his rendition of a song called Bushel and a Peck – we had no idea what those two words meant but we loved belting it out – especially the “doodle oodle oodle” bit!
Bushel and a Peck was written in the early 1950’s and was introduced in the musical Guys and Dolls. Here’s the hugely popular Doris Day version…
Right I’m off to do something with a bushel load of apples! They may be hurled at the television later this afternoon!!
Take care everyone. Missing you all and sending lots of love xxx
Apple Blossom 2013 kicked off for Richard and I last Wednesday morning at the Bloomin’ Business Lunch, held in a big tent on a parking lot out the back of our local hospital. We were there as guests of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission – something of a mouthful but as you can probably guess they support and advise new business ventures in the area. Richard could only stay for an hour which left me holding the fort for Taura. Fortunately no one asked me any curly questions about ultra rapid concentration or emerging snack markets in Asia, so I could relax and enjoy my lunch and the presentation by Tim League, founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. He was a great speaker and the story of how he started his business was very interesting, but the thing I liked the most about Tim League was his oh so subtle and uber cool apple blossom outfit – slightly minty green, 1970’s cut suit with coordinating pastel pink shirt and interesting green tie. Very much the outfit for someone in the movie biz.
Thursday night saw us all heading over to the Apple Blossom Carnival which the girls absolutely loved. We ate awful fried food and spun around on a few rides then dragged the girls off home to bed.
Friday was a big Apple Blossom day for us with the coronation of Queen Shenandoah and the kids Bloomin’ mile run. The girls and I got ourselves suitably pink and green and joined a packed crowd at John Handley High School to take in the coronation. It was incredibly formal and English and pink and I was expecting to hear the theme song from the Tiwghlight Zone at any moment! Olive and Edie loved it and I later learned that a couple of English kings were crowned at Winchester cathedral in England which is one of the reasons why a coronation is reenacted as part of the festival.
At the conclusion of the ceremony we were treated to a performance by the Handley High School Glee club and it was just like on tv – I half expected Rachel and Finn to emerge from the back and start belting out Don’t Stop Believing!
I got in the usher’s bad books by leaving before everything was finished – apparently noone was supposed to exit before the queen, but after all that processing and crowning and knighting, this little colonial had had enough. It was very strange to watch such an overtly royal display in a country that fought so hard to become independent of a monarchy.
We switched our attention to the Bloomin’ Mile which was conveniently located in the grounds of the high school. It was huge – over 1300 children aged between 6 and 14 raced around the one mile course with the fastest boy finishing in 5:03 and the fastest girl in 5:53.
Richard and I were thrilled Olive was taking part but were a little unsure as to how she would get on. She had been doing a little extension class at school called Run 4 Fun but at no time had they ever actually completed a one mile circuit. She ran a one kilometre race in Belgium and found that pretty challenging even with Richard running alongside her, and had refused all our offers to go out for a few practice runs with Mum and Dad. We talked lots about how great it was that she was taking part and that it would be okay to walk if she needed, but all our well meaning words were met with slight eye rolls and “yes I know Mum!”. So it was me who was a bundle of nerves as she lined up with the other 6 and 7 year old girls. She dashed off when the horn blew and I proceeded to start chatting to my neighbour, not expecting Olive to emerge for a good while. But then out of the corner of me eye I caught a glimpse of the side ponytail and there she was sprinting for the finish line whilst I stood there with my mouth hanging open – fortunately I had the good sense to give the camera to Richard or we would have had no pictures.
After I had dried my tears we joined our neighbours at the home of one of their friends to watch the Firefighter’s Parade. This was a collection of vintage fire trucks, interspersed with the marching bands from the surrounding middle and high schools, and all the celebrities who had been invited to the festival.
When the sun went down Richard took the girls back down to the high school for the fireworks display. Old Nana Croad stayed home and went to bed – am finding being outside in the sun for long periods of time really exhausting and not great for my sinuses which have decided they are a teeny bit allergic to all the Winchester blooms!
Richard was up early Saturday morning to take part in the Apple Blossom 10k race. Unfortunately the chilli dog he ate at the parade the previous evening did not have the desired carbo loading effect so he didn’t do as well as he would have liked – for him that means a time of 47:39 – 224th place in a field close to 1500 runners. Pretty poor effort really!!! Plus on the official results he was recorded as being 58 years of age!
We decided to bike into the city to watch Saturday afternoon’s grand feature parade. It was great to back on my bike – even though the terrain in Winchester has somewhat more of a gradient than the lowlands of Antwerp. We got lots of looks and friendly comments – Olive biked the whole way there and back, showing no signs of tiredness from her race the day before.
The parade consisted of princesses, queens, marching bands, beauty queens, tractors, beauty queens, military, beauty queens, community floats, beauty queens, steam engines, beauty queens, a few celebrities…and did I mention the beauty queens?!!
We headed home after almost three hours – the parade was still going – but Edie had called time on the proceedings and we were all quite happy to disappear home. On Sunday we spent a couple of hours at a family fun day held in one of our local parks – food, face painting, craft stalls and classic cars.
By Sunday evening we were all exhausted and completed bloomed out. Now that we have pretty much experienced everything the Bloom has to offer, next year we can be a bit more selective about what we do or maybe we’ll just go away for a long weekend! Somehow I don’t think that will go down well with Olive and Edie 🙂
There are a bloomin’ ridiculous number of Apple Blossom photos if you click on the Flickr link and I have done captions for all of them. Just in case you need to see a few more beauty queens!
Take care everyone. Missing you all and sending our love xxx
For many cities and small towns across the South, agriculture was the backbone of the community and annual harvests provided opportunities for work and play. People came together to gather and then celebrate the year’s bounty. As the years went by, many of these events were formalised by town governments into large scale fairs and festivals which brought adults and children into the town to join in the celebrations.
Winchester, with its long history in the apple growing industry, chose to honour the beauty and the bounty of the apple blossom.
On Saturday May the 3rd, 1924, the first Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was held. It was a one day event which culminated in the crowning of Queen Shenandoah, Miss Elizabeth Steck.
Since 1924 the festival has grown in size, extravagance and national acclaim. During the 1930s,however, there was a loss of interest in the festival. This led to the hiring of one Tom Baldridge to the position of festival director. Baldridge was employed in the publicity department of MGM, responsible for promoting careers of young actors. He was able to schedule the appearance of celebrities at the festival and this lead to a huge renewal of interest in Apple Blossom.
Winchester has a population of around 24,000 people but during the six day Apple Blossom Festival, anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 people descend on this little city to watch and take part in a wide range of activities and parades. There is a wine festival, Miss Apple Blossom Pageant, golf tournament, apple-pie baking contest, disco dance party, prayer brunch, business luncheon, Ladies’ Horticultural Luncheon, Stag Luncheon, Coronation of Queen Shenandoah, kids one mile fun run, fire fighters parade, fireworks display, 80’s dance, Queen’s Ball, sports breakfast, 10k race, the Grand Feature Parade, square dance, oldies rock’n’roll dance, kids fun day, bluegrass festival…and that’s not all of it!!!
Every year a Grand Marshal is chosen to lead the parade and this is where the celebrity factor comes into play. Former Grand Marshals have included Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Anson Williams aka Potsy from Happy Days, Robert Wagner, Mary Tyler Moore, Dan Ackroyd, Sean Astin, Larry Hagman, Ponch (!), Val Kilmer and Debbie Reynolds. Last year Mario Lopez took up the Grand Marshal duties and this year 2011 American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery is in charge. ( The name meant nothing to me when I heard it announced – American Idol is not really big on Belgian television !)
Here’s a taste of what to expect from this year’s big cheese…I mean Grand Marshal!
The Apple Blossom Festival would not be complete without a Queen and here again is where as much celebrity as possible is injected into little old Winchester. Former Queens have been daughters of Governors; granddaughters of Presidents; daughters of NFL legends and other sporting superstars; and daughters and granddaughters of actors and actresses.
This year will be the fourth time that a relative of the iconic Michael Landon will serve as our Queen. Two of his daughters and one of his grand daughters have previously had the honour and this year another grand daughter, Rachel Lynn Matthews, will be crowned Queen.
Unsurprisingly apple green and pink are the official colours of the bloom and we even have a dedicated Apple Blossom store where one can immerse oneself in a sea of hot pink and apple green – the girls loved it and chose a very bright pink and green flag emblazoned with the word “Bloom” which is now fluttering from our flag pole. Many of the houses in Winchester are currently sporting some little piece of bloom bling – a flag (think the Irish flag but with a pink stripe in place of the orange), some softly draped bunting, a tasteful floral arrangement on the letter box – and all the gardens are looking pretty spectacular.
And so this week we will experience for the first time the “grandeur” that is the Apple Blossom Festival. Those of you that know my husband well, will not be surprised by the news that he is approaching the bloom with as much enthusiasm as would be mustered for a tooth extraction. I, on the other hand, am doing my very best to get my Bloom on. This involved insisting Richard accept his invite to the Bloom Business Luncheon, promising to be his plus one and finding myself a suitably pink and green outfit to wear. The girls will get their bloom on when we go and watch the coronation of the Queen and then Olive is going to take part in the kids Bloomin’ Mile race. Richard very conveniently shifted into new offices this weekend, which happen to sit right on the parade route, so we are hoping for a great view of … well to be honest I’m not quite sure, but I thinks it’s safe to say there will be apples, blossoms, tiaras, lots of pink and green…
When we talk to people about Apple Blossom we get a whole range of responses – from eye rolling, to being told to leave town if possible, to enthusiastic gushes about how beautiful it is and how much the girls will enjoy it, to my favourite thus far – upon striking up a conversation with a resident of his new work neighbourhood, Richard was told that the bloom is “Winchester’s gift to West Virginia” – I’ll leave you to make of that what you will!
Check back in at the end of the week for my Bloomin’ Update!!
It’s official – Spring is finally here and not a moment too soon! Much as the snow was beautiful and such a novelty we were getting a bit tired of it. Edie’s words on our last snow day – even though it meant a day off school – were “I’m sick of snow!” Those 5:30am automated phone calls from roboto lady saying “Winchester Public schools are closed today” were getting a bit old too. Thirty degrees today and we are still a couple of months off summer!
Our first taste of a change in the weather came on our way home from Spring break in St Michaels. We took a detour to Great Falls National Park, not far from DC. The sky was blue, the sun was bright and we were treated to the amazing spectacle of the Potomac River building up speed and forcing its way over a series of steep, jagged rocks and then on through a narrow gorge.
On Saturday we spent another sunny afternoon at nearby Sherando Park for the annual kite festival. We had great fun flying our own kites and watching those flown by avid kite runners. One of these kites was decorated in a traditional Maori kowhaiwhai pattern. When the MC for the day asked the children gathered around him if they knew where the Maori people came from, the general consensus was “China”! He clearly couldn’t hear us hollering out “New Zealand” from the other end of the field 🙂
On Sunday we hiked (that’s what you call tramping in these parts) up to Buzzard Rock. Both girls coped really well with the climb and we were treated to spectacular views.
This weekend we will be celebrating a very important milestone. Hard to believe but our wonderful Olive Mia will be turning seven. Stay tuned for the obligatory birthday report! Take care everyone. Missing you all and sending lots of love xxx
The Shenandoah Valley stretches 200 miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. It is often referred to as The Big Valley and has been immortalised in song, dance, film and television. The valley is home to nine counties and ten cities, one of which is our new home of Winchester. It is an area rich in fertile land, stunning scenery and has an important place in American history. A short drive from our house you will find a museum dedicated to showcasing the art, history and culture of this great valley.
The museum is made up of the building above, six acres of gardens and historic Glen Burnie House which dates back to the 18th century. As you can probably guess from all the white stuff in the photo above, we weren’t able to explore the gardens but easily whiled away a couple of hours in the main building.
I really enjoyed looking at the many quilts on display – some of which dated back to the early 1800’s. The orange and green Orla Kiely-esque one pictured below, was inspired by the peeling of an orange!
Olive and Edie’s favourite part of the museum was the miniatures gallery where we viewed an amazing collection of furnished miniature houses and rooms. They are part of a larger collection by R. Lee Taylor, who helped to create the gardens which we will return to visit in the spring time. As there were very few visitors at the museum, one of the guides gave the girls a private tour, pointing out all sorts of things for them to look at. They were thrilled, as were Richard and I as we got to look at the “boring” exhibits in peace!
For a “small town” museum we were very impressed. The museum also offers many lecture series and programmes for writers, gardeners, artists, musicians…and many of the programmes are aimed at children and young adults. We took an annual membership as we expect it is a place we will visit often.
We are heading into birthday season in our house as Edie, Richard and I are all approaching our special days. Edie is beside herself about becoming a big five year old – where has my baby gone?! – and I promise to post a full report about her celebrations.
This weekend sees me embarking on a beginner’s quilting course. I am both excited and nervous. When I went down to the shop to choose my fabric today, I saw the piece of work I will be attempting to construct – gulp! Keep an eye on my How to Make An American Quilt page where I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing.
On Monday night we wrapped up warm and headed into town to watch the Winchester Christmas Parade. One of the great advantages of living in a much smaller city is you can turn up to something like a big parade ten minutes before kick off, and still find a great place from which to view the action.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect – after watching the spectacle that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade I had to lower the girl’s expectations somewhat.
One of the key parts of the parade were the marching bands from the city and county Middle and High schools. The marching band is not something that’s done in New Zealand schools so it was a great new experience for us. I for one loved seeing rows and rows of children and young adults streaming past, all in command of their instruments. There was a real sense of pride and spirit.
Although we have only been here just short of two months, Olive and Edie have already developed a fierce pride for their future schools – Daniel Morgan Middle School and John Handley High School. Whenever we drive past the schools, especially the high school, there is always pointing and commenting. They were very excited recently to go and watch a show at the high school and when they meet someone new they always want to know where they go to school. If its DMMS or JHHS then they are ok 🙂 It seems that if Olive and Edie have their way, we will be living here for the next fourteen years!!
Along with the marching bands there were scout groups, volunteer fire brigades, the Winchester City pipe band, 4H clubs, church groups, beauty queens…even a BMX club.
Of course no Christmas Parade would be complete without that jolly big guy in the red suit…
The parade was a real reflection of the community and what is important to it, and we loved every minute of it. And it was just the start of a whole host of activities, concerts, house tours, Nativity plays etc. etc. that one can partake of in Winchester as we get close to Christmas. I forsee a great deal of photography and typing in my near future!
PS Richard has just come home from his run and reports that the light displays are growing exponentially around the neighbourhood. He has promised to go out one night and get some photos – I will endeavour to hold him to that 🙂