WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons and Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival President Mike Stanfield announced Thursday morning that the festival will have a change of venue for its major events.
The festival events formerly held on the campus of the Winchester Medical Center (WMC) will be moved the event venue located inside and immediately outside the new James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics & Events Center at Shenandoah University. The center, recently constructed by Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. of Winchester, is a 77,000-square-foot building capable of seating 1,600 for athletic events and nearly 5,000 for graduations, concerts, and conventions.
“For many many years, people in the Winchester and the surrounding area have talked for the need of a facility this size. A facility like this, some sort of event center,” said Stanfield, during a news conference held at the athletic center.
Stanfield said the need for space was so great 20 years ago that the people in charge of the Apple Blossom Festival decided to put up a tent for all the events they wanted to have because there was nowhere else big enough. He said last year’s tent was larger than 20,000 square feet.
But now that the festival has partnered with Shenandoah University to use its new athletic center, it will have much more space. Stanfield said the university and the festival have a 20-year agreement to use the athletic center for the Apple Blossom Festival. Festival Executive Director John Rosenberger told The Star that one advantage of the athletic center over the tent is that it will be fully functional, regardless of how good or bad the weather is.
Dr. Ben Tolley, who sponsored the event tent at WMC, said he wanted to still support the festival at its new location at the James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics & Event Center. Tolley told the crowd at the event center that the Apple Blossom Festival keeps changing and getting better.
“Just to see the enthusiasm of everybody … it’s just so exciting. To even set foot in this place and look at it, it’s breathtaking,” Tolley said.
Source: Winchester Star, Josh Janney