05-04-2017 Blossomtime Festival: A Life that Blossoms; Vanderlyn Community Center million dollar inf

Blossomtime Festival: A Life that Blossoms

By Annette Christie

The 2017 Blossomtime Festival officially kicked off Sunday, April 30 with the Blessing of the Blossoms event at the MSU Extension Office in Benton Harbor.

“B” FOR BLOSSOMS… Tri-City royalty participated in the Blessing of the Blossoms Sun-day afternoon to kick off the Blossomtime Festival. Pictured (from the left) are: Miss Coloma Cassidy Fickett, Miss Blossomtime Kaylee Chapin of Watervliet, Mr. Blossomtime Hunter Ackerman of Hartford, and Miss Hartford Mariel Hallgren. (TCR photo by Annette Chris-tie

A procession was held through the event center with all the local royalty brandishing blossoms from their respective communities. A history of the event was given providing an overview of how the event began. The Blossomtime Festival is the largest multi-community festival in the state.

As early as 1891, local area business interests took a proactive role in attracting visitors to Southwest Michigan with their promotion to the Chicago market. Hundreds of visitors made their way across Lake Michigan with the local steamship company.

In 1906, Rev. W.J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor was the first to urge his parishioners to drive through the local orchards to take in all the beauty of the fruit blossoms. Cady termed them “symbols of life renewed” and his sermon is credited with the birth of Blossomtime Festival.

On Sunday, Pastor Corey Kugel with the Chapel provided a similar reading, reminding those present that it is easy to miss the beauty all around us this time of year with our busy schedules and running from one event to another, but that it was important to live a life that blossoms, much like the season’s agriculture before us. Kugel referred to Psalm 1, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”

Kugel thanked the farmers for all of their hard work and for their skill which helps to create this season of beauty in Southwest Michigan.

Following the blessing of the blossoms, community royalty did an exchange of their blossoms. Mr. Blossomtime Hunter Ackerman of Hartford and Miss Blossomtime Kaylee Chapin of Watervliet were among those that exchanged blossoms with each other.

The annual baseball game with the House of David team was cancelled due to the weather. There is another one scheduled during the week of the Berrien County Youth Fair.

Community royalty begin a week full of festivities. They will be traveling all over Southwest Michigan for the Goodwill tour, where kings and queens will tour the communities. These tours will include stops at elementary & middle schools and assisted living facilities.

The Mayors Banquet will be held Tuesday at the Lake Michigan College Grand Upton Hall. This event includes all mayors, village presidents, city managers and officials of the respective communities. The gathering gives all the dignitaries the opportunity to present the keys to their cities to their respective royalty.

In addition, the presentation of the queens’ charm bracelets is held. The history of the charm bracelet exchange began over 40 years ago. The bracelet includes charms with each queen’s photo in it. The community chairpersons make this presentation.

The Youth Parade will be held on Thursday at Dickinson Stadium at St. Joseph High School. Youngsters from preschool through middle school participate in this event that starts at 5:00 p.m. It annually includes floats, bands, scout troops, 4-H groups, and the younger Blossomtime royalty.

Saturday morning brings the Run/Walk for the Buds event. In its 38th year, it has a 10K run and a 5K run/walk. It begins at 10:30 a.m. near the corners of Main and Ship streets in downtown St. Joseph and takes place along the Blossomtime Festival Parade route before the parade begins.