Each Monday, we'll blog about our members! Our Member Monday posts will feature stories, pictures and ideas from the members that make up St. Joe Today.
Driving into our corner of Southwest Michigan, you’ll find apple orchards, grape vineyards, and fields of strawberries. Come spring, the blossoms begin to show, and the landscape is filled with tiny dots of white and pink. It’s a beautiful sight for residents, and marks the beginning of a season that the area’s economy depends on. It’s also a sight that has attracted tourists for years, as they visited the “Fruit Belt”. While the blooms may come slowly at first, there is a definite start to the season. That’s the first weekend of May, when the Blossomtime Festival and Parade happens!
The St. Joseph High School Marching Band kicked off the parade at 1:00 on Main St; floats from the surrounding communities followed, including Berrien Springs' Beatles-themed float playing "Yellow Submarine".
The Blossomtime Festival is a week of events celebrating the area, and the highlight is the Saturday parade. This parade includes 23 different communities in Southwest Michigan! Each community brings a different energy to the parade, uniting in a celebration that kicks off the summer. This year, there were floats, marching bands, area organizations, vets, police cars, and more. There were estimated to be 200,000 spectators! A spectacular show, it lasted for 2 hours, starting in St. Joseph and tracing Main St. through Benton Harbor.
Each community has a float, a band, and a court of royalty. From the courts, a reigning Blossomtime king and queen are selected. The first queen, Catherine Burrell, was selected in 1924. This year, Ashley Sipla of Coloma was crowned. There's also a float that carries the "Buds"- aspiring kings and queens!
The Blossomtime Festival has a huge historical component to the area, too. Orchard tours were a huge draw to the area, inspiring many Chicago residents to hop the ferry. It was a priority for many businesses in the area, and they took a proactive role in the early tourism. The Blossomtime parade traces back to 1923, when the Southwest Michigan community came together to celebrate the beginning of the fruit season by offering a central event for the residents and visitors. Originally, a truck traveled around Chicago’s Loop advertising the parade and “blossom lanes” for spectacular travel.
Eden Springs Park at the House of David had a float celebrating their historic baseball games, and the ongoing restoration project. You can read about the volunteer overhaul here.
The Benton Harbor Tigers were awesome; you can find a video of them here on our YouTube channel.
The Blossomtime Festival happens in early May each year; the parade is the first Saturday of May. We hope to see you for 2017!
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