Winchester, VA – Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® President, Sharen Gromling, is pleased to announce the area’s top high school and college student-athletes. Students are chosen each year to represent their school during the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast which takes place during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® on Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, at 8:00 am inside the Tolley Dental Zone at James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center on the campus of Shenandoah University.
The 2023 outstanding local student-athletes include:
Andrew Link - James Wood High School
Andrew has earned both his academic and varsity letters at James Wood. He has earned two for football, two for basketball and will earn his fourth letter this season in track and field. Honors include being Team Captain for basketball and track. Andrew earned All-State Honors in 2021 for both the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles and in 2022 for 300 meter hurdles. He earned a district championship in the 300m hurdles in 2021 and 2022 and in the 110m hurdles in 2022. He also earned a regional championship for 300m hurdles in 2022 and 55m hurdles in 2023. He is 3rd all-time at James Wood in both the 55m and 300m hurdles. Andrew earned the “Most Outstanding Sprinter/Hurdler” award by his coaches in 2021 and 2022. He has been a two-year starter for basketball and earned the “Coaches Award” for basketball in 2023. He played Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Linebacker for varsity football. Andrew was also awarded “Senior Player of the Game” for football in 2022 and earned the Sportsmanship award. Andrew is an Eagle Scout and member of the National Honor Society. Andrew has a 4.15 GPA and plans to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy where he will continue running track.
Jamie Mae Kelly – Skyline High School
Jamie Mae Kelly is from Front Royal, Virginia and attends Skyline High School. Over her four-year high school career, Jamie has earned 12 varsity letters (4 volleyball/4 basketball/4 softball). In volleyball, Jamie was Team Captain her junior and senior seasons. During her junior season she was Second Team All-District. Her senior season Jamie was First Team All-District, Second Team All-Region, and First Team NV Daily All-Area team while also being voted Skyline Volleyball MVP. As a three-time team MVP basketball player, Jamie was Second Team All-District as a freshman, First Team All-District and Second Team All-Region in both her sophomore and junior seasons, before exploding into First Team All-District and First-Team All-Region her senior season. Jamie was on the Strasburg Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team during both her junior and senior years, as well as First Team NV Daily All-Area team both her junior and season seasons. Jamie reached a career milestone this past season when she scored her 1000th career point and leaves the Hawks as their second all-time leading scorer. Currently in her senior softball season, Jamie Kelly earned both Second Team All-District and Second Team All-Region her sophomore and junior seasons and was awarded First-Team NV Daily All-Area as a junior shortstop/pitcher. Jamie has a 3.52 GPA and has signed to play collegiate softball for Potomac State College next season.
Sara Waller – Warren County High School
Sara has earned 11 Varsity letters for Warren County High School, playing 4 years of Varsity Volleyball and Softball, and 3 years of Varsity Basketball. Sara has been named 2nd team All-District and 2nd team All-Region for her sophomore and junior years in Softball and junior year in basketball. Sara has been a 4-year starter and 2-year team captain on the varsity volleyball team where she earned 2nd team All-District and All-Region honors as a sophomore and 1st team All-District and All-Region honors as a junior. During the 2022 season, Sara helped lead her team to a Region 3B Championship and State Semi-Final appearance. During this run, Sara was named 1st team All-District, 1st team All-Region along with Region 3B Player of the Year and 1st team All-State for Class 3. Sara was also named the 2022 Northern Virginia Daily Player of the Year. Sara is ranked 5th in her graduating class with a 4.19 GPA. She is the Senior Class Vice-President, the National Honor Society Historian, and the Vice President of Hospitality for the Warren County High School DECA program which competes at the National level. Sara intends to continue her volleyball career in college while studying Marine Biology.
Emma Ahrens – Sherando High School
Emma Ahrens has earned 10 varsity letters at Sherando (4 cross country/2 indoor track/3 outdoor track/1 band). She is a five-time state qualifier, and two time state medalist in cross country and the indoor 3200m. She is also a national qualifier in the indoor 3200m and 5000m. Emma earned Winchester Star and Northern Virginia Daily honors in each of her seasons between freshman and senior year. She also plays two instruments in multiple bands at Sherando and is active in Student Council and National Honors Society. Emma has a 4.25 GPA and has committed to run cross country and track for Concordia University Wisconsin in the fall.
Christopher LeBlanc- Clarke County High School
Christopher LeBlanc has earned 6 Varsity letters, 4 from Soccer and 2 from football. Due to covid his freshman year he was a 3-year starter at the midfield/attacking positions from his sophomore year to senior. In his sophomore season from 2020-21 he earned 1st team All-District, and Region. His junior season from 2021-22 he won the Class 2 state championship and earned 1st team All-District, Region, and all Area by the Winchester Star. He also earned 2nd team All-State. For his current senior season, he is expected to perform well again and make a deep run into states. During his 2021-22 junior season in football, he earned 1st team All-District, Region, and Area by the Winchester Star for punting and kicking. His senior year from 2022-23 he earned 1st team All-District, Region, Area by the Winchester Star, and 2nd team state, for punting. He earned 2nd team All-District, Region, Area by the Winchester Star, and state for kicking. Chris was also a member of the Screamin’ Eagles Marching Band from his 8th-10th grade years and was a section leader starting his freshman year. He has also been a member of DECA since his junior year. Christopher has a 3.889 GPA and has signed a letter of intent with Shenandoah University to play football.
Emerson Fusco – Handley High School
Emerson Fusco has earned 7 varsity letters at John Handley High School. He was a 3-year starter in Football as a Defensive Back and Running Back. He earned All-District and All-Region Honors his junior and senior years and was All-Area for the Winchester Star both seasons. On the hardwood for the Judges, Fusco was a 4-year starter. He was All-District and All-Region and was the Northwestern District Player of the Year his junior and senior years. Additionally, he was voted the Region 4C Player of the Year his senior season and garnered All-State Honors. He also scored the 2nd most points all time at Handley, scoring 43 points in a playoff game vs Sherando. He was also the Winchester Star Player of the Year his junior year (has not been released to date for 2022-23). He has a 3.4 GPA and will play college basketball next year.
Nicholas Hayden- Millbrook High School
Nicholas Hayden is a senior cross country/track and field athlete from Millbrook High School. Nicholas has earned state titles in the 800m outdoor and 1000m indoor races. He also has five district titles and two region titles between track and cross country. He holds Millbrook High School records in the 500m, 800m, 1000m, 5000m, and 4x400m relay. He was the 2022 Winchester Start Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Nicholas is a member of Millbrook’s Chapter of the National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America. Nicholas has a 4.465 GPA and will attend and run track for Columbia University, majoring in Finance.
Kailyn Allanson – Legacy Christian Academy
Kailyn Allanson is a senior at Legacy Christian Academy. She has played Varsity Volleyball for 4 years and was a part of the 2022 National Championship team. Kailyn has a GPA of 3.18. She will attend Arizona State University to study Criminal Justice.
Miles Moore – Shenandoah University
Miles Moore from Richmond, Virginia graduated from Manchester High School. He is currently a senior at Shenandoah University and ran all 4 years for the Hornets while playing football 2 of those years. He has set numerous records at Shenandoah breaking the 100 meter dash, indoor 200 meters dash, outdoor 200 dash, 4x100m relay, and the 4x200m relay records. Miles is a 6-time Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) champion. He received USTFCCCA All-American in March for the Indoor 200 meters placing 8th at the NCAA Championships. Miles earned USTFCCCA All-Region, All-ODAC, and VaSID All-State. Miles intends to use final year of eligibility to run at Mount St. Mary University receiving his master’s degree in Sports Management.
Ella Drury – Mountain View Christian Academy
Ella Drury has been a student of Mountain View Christian Academy for the last four years. She is a member of the graduating class of 2023 and is President of the Academy’s Student Government Association. During her high school career, she has been an SGO and National Honor Society member for two years and a member of Mountain View’s Drama department for all four. She played varsity volleyball her junior and senior year as a middle hitter. She is also a part of the Academy’s Chapel Worship team, where she sings and plays guitar. Ella has a GPA of 3.7. After high school Ella plans to stay in her hometown of beautiful Winchester, VA to work and save money until she feels secure enough to move to New York City, where she will begin a career in acting.
Tickets to the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® President, Sharen Gromling, is pleased to welcome Ashburn, Virginia native and reigning 2022 Miss Virginia, Victoria Chuah, to the Festival this spring. She is no stranger to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® as she was Miss Apple Blossom 2019.
Victoria obtained her Bachelors and Masters Degrees of Science in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh in May 2022, graduating Summa Cum Laude with honors in four years. She was featured on the Morgan Stanley billboard in Times Square and is one of their incoming software engineers.
Victoria was selected Miss Virginia 2022 in Roanoke, VA on June 25, 2022, and was the recipient of $22,500 in scholarships. She was also awarded the overall Social Impact Award with her initiative 4A: Awareness & Advocacy for Adults with Autism which is inspired by her 19-year-old brother Luke who lives with autism. As Miss Virginia, she is using her voice to advocate the need for Home Life Community - community developments for adults on the autism spectrum providing services and long-term support plans for them to thrive.
Victoria was awarded a $10,000 “Women in Stem” scholarship at Miss America in December.
She also serves as the ABC Spokesperson for promoting healthy choices and substance abuse prevention to students in Virginia’s elementary schools as part of Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority’s Miss Virginia School Tour program.
As part of her year of service, she makes personal appearances to promote local businesses and non-profits as well as the keynote speaker at various events across the Commonwealth participating in fundraising events and conferences. Her advocacy within these diverse arenas offers schools the opportunity to target the programs that best meet the needs of their students.
Victoria will be visiting many festival events during her return to our springtime homecoming. Among those events are the Coronation, presented by Morgan Orthodontics, and the Hang 10 Car Wash Firefighters’ Parade on May 5. She will then ride in the Glo Fiber Grand Feature Parade, which begins at 1:30 p.m. on May 6.
Tickets to Festival events are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
Washington Redskins two-time Super Bowl Champion & James Madison University Football Great, Gary Clark to be Festival Sports Guest
Two-time Super Bowl Champion and Washington Redskins legend, Gary Clark, has been announced as a Special Sports Guest by Festival President, Sharen Gromling. In 1985, Clark was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins and went on to playing 11 seasons in the NFL.
Clark is considered one of the toughest players in Redskins history, a tenacious blocker and consummate professional. He was the first wide receiver in NFL history to catch at least 50 passes in his rookie season. Clark was one of the top wide receivers in the National Football League at the time of his retirement, ranking 8th in receptions and 7th in receiving yards. Clark was a two-time Super Bowl Champion, two-time Redskins MVP, three-time All Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, and an eight-time All-Madden Team member. Clark’s “competitive fire, tenacity, and ability to make clutch, game-changing plays,” made him a favorite of legendary commentator, John Madden.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clark, Ricky Sanders and Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Art Monk were nicknamed “The Posse” for being one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Clark’s NFL career totaled 699 receptions and 10,856 yards. He scored 65 touchdowns; 58 of those came with Washington. Gary Clark is recognized as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins list and was honored as an NFL Hall of Fame Nominee. Gary was inducted into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 into the Washington Redskins Ring of Honor.
Gary attended James Madison University (JMU) and was inducted into the JMU Hall of Fame in 1994. As a Duke, Clark held every significant JMU receiving record at the end of his college career. Clark was named Virginia Offensive Player in 1982 and Honorable All American in 1982 and 1983. He was the first player in JMU Football history to win a Super Bowl Championship and the first ever to have his #80 jersey retired by the University.
Clark’s outstanding college career stood out when the United State Football League (USFL) was formed in 1984. Clark was the first ever draft pick for the Jacksonville Bulls and the first JMU player to be drafted as a first round pick by a professional team. His impact with the Bulls soon came to the attention of Washington Redskins.
Gary C. Clark is the Founder of Gary Clark Incorporated and Co-Founder of T&G Real Estate Advisors and The MetaVerse Sports Group. A serial entrepreneur, Gary considers his five children, Gari, Aiden, Nathaniel, Gabriella and Gary 2.0, his greatest joy.
Clark, a native Virginian from Radford, Pulaski County High School grad, JMU Football standout, and Washington Redskins legend will attend many festival events including the Coronation of Queen Shenandoah presented by Morgan Orthodontics and the Hang 10 Car Wash Firefighters’ Parade. Gary will speak at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast on Saturday morning, May 6 at the Tolley Dental Zone in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Event Center on the campus of Shenandoah University Campus and then ride in the Glo Fiber Grand Feature Parade.
Winchester, VA – The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® is pleased to announce the 2023 Apple Blossom Sports Hall of Fame Inductees, Debby Sanders and James W. “Jim” Casey. Debby and the Casey family will be honored for their contribution to sports in the region at 8:00 a.m. during the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast on Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, in the Tolley Dental Zone at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Event Center, 1188 Ralph Shockey Drive. General admission tickets are $45 and VIP tickets are $125.
Debby retired from Frederick County Public Schools after 30 years as a Health and PE teacher, Department Chair, and Head Girls’ Basketball Coach.
She coached Millbrook High School girls’ basketball team from 2004-2013 with 84 consecutive wins. The team titles include the following: State Champions 2010, 2011, 2012; Regional Champions 2010, 2011, 2012; District Champions 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013; Regional Runner-Up 2009; and State Semi-Finalists 2009.
She was named State Coach of the Year from 2010 through 2012; Regional Coach of the Year from 2009 to 2012; and District Coach of the Year in 1997 and from 2009 through 2013.
After coaching, Debby served as an assistant athletic director for one year and volunteered at numerous sporting events. She was inducted into the Millbrook Athletic Hall of Fame and started the Millbrook “Go Pink” Millbrook vs. Cancer annual events that help to raise money to support individuals and families in the community impacted by cancer.
James W. “Jim” Casey
A native of Boyce and 32-year employee of James Wood High School, James “Jim” William Casey died at the age of 92 on Jan. 8, 2023. He is remembered and missed by scores of people in the area as he is inducted into the 2023 Apple Blossom Sports Hall of Fame.
Casey is survived by two of his three children – James M. and his daughter Ann. His son, John Casey, noted blacksmith and manager of the family farm, died at age 61 this past March. Coach Casey is also survived by his brother Jerry. Jim’s wife Eleanor MacDonald died in 2005. She, with Jim, founded and operated one of West Virginia’s most successful thoroughbred and racing operations. The operation was first named for Eleanor, and then after her death, for their horse farm Taylor Mountain.
Jim graduated from Boyce Agricultural High School and the College of William and Mary where he ran track, played baseball, and was the varsity football manager. After two years in the military, Casey returned to begin his career at James Wood High School, where he was a teacher, coach, and athletic director.
Retired athletic director at Handley High School, Jimmy Omps, said of Casey, “I remember watching Casey run the cinder track at Handley, the 100-yard dash in close to 10 seconds. He was very intelligent; he knew the rules.”
Don Shirley, a retired principal at James Wood, agreed that his intelligence was a comfort to him and a sounding board. “He was good listener…I missed that greatly when he retired. He was one of the most loyal persons I can think of. He remembered everything, the kids, who did what in which game. Unbelievable!”
Former JWHS student Danny Hoopes recalled that Casey was a great strategy coach; he was not vocal, but he was a confident man. Hoopes, who Coach Casey nicknamed Hoops, Jr. greeted him that way for years. Why Hoops, Jr? Hoops was told to figure it out himself. Seems Hoops was the 1945 Kentucky Derby winner.
Casey’s son, a veterinarian like his grandfather, said, “He never really got upset about anything. He could take things in stride.”
The 1954-55 school year marked the beginning of Casey’s run of success as head coach in three sports. In baseball, he never had a losing record; his football winning record included a 10-0 season in 1964, but he was at his best with basketball. After James Wood High School hired Casey as head coach, he had a record of 132-29, winning eight District titles.
Casey’s post-educational career as horse owner and trainer featured more than 1,200 wins, including a record 35 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic victories as a trainer. Casey moved from Winchester to Charles Town, W.Va. in 2002 after acquiring 146 acres in Jefferson County.
Like his grandfather, he was generous. There is the Dr. Joseph M. Casey scholarship at Clarke County High given to a student pursuing a degree in science or veterinarian medicine. The generosity and encouragement Casey and his wife Eleanor left to future generations are scholarships named the JAMES & ELEANOR CASEY ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS which are awarded yearly at James Wood High School, Millbrook High School, Sherando High School, Clarke County High School, Washington High, and Jefferson High Schools. The scholarships are used by an athlete to further their education and playing a college sport is not a requirement.
As late as 2022 he won 24 races and was at the track every morning. On the morning of January 6, 2023 Casey fell at the track and suffered a broken leg. He won the race while in surgery and seemed to be on the mend when he died two days later. His wife Eleanor had died in similar circumstances, A loose horse caused her to fall and break her hip at age 74 in 2005.
His son, James M. Casey, told the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred journal, “He enjoyed it--the people, the horses, the races. He went to the track every day until the very end.” Casey’s racing resume records over 1,200 wins, his horse, No Love for Juba, a homebred horse, won the West Virginia Futurity on Jan. 8, the day of his death. Late in the Game, came in second.
Coach Casey’s son and daughter will accept their father’s induction into the 2023 Apple Blossom Sports Hall of Fame.
Join us at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast at the Tolley Zone in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Event Center on Shenandoah University Campus on Saturday morning, May 6, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Sharen Gromling, President of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is delighted to announce Natalie Woodward, Miss Virginia Association of Fairs 2023, as a special Festival guest. Natalie’s participation will highlight the festival’s dedication to agricultural heritage and community spirit.
Natalie Woodward, representing our area’s very own Frederick County Fair, was crowned Miss Virginia Association of Fairs 2023 during the 105th conference of the Virginia Association Fairs at the historic Williamsburg Lodge in January 2023. She aspires to earn her Bachelor’s of Science in nursing with a focus on becoming a nurse anesthetist. In the fall, she will transfer to a four-year university after obtaining her Associate of Arts and Sciences degree from Laurel Ridge Community College. A graduate of Sherando High School, Natalie was a member of the National Honor Society, a 4-year honor roll student, and she was named Cheerleader of the Year. In preparation for her nursing career, she is a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Natalie’s personal platform is “The Confidence Campaign” in which she helps others build their confidence through self-kindness. The Confidence Campaign is a combination of printable, readable, and watchable resources that focus on implementing kindness in everyday life. These tools create a mindset that is filled with contagious positivity and allow everyone to shine bright. She has spoken to over 500 students in the Commonwealth, sharing her important message. In addition, she is very involved with her local food pantry, serving on its governing board that assists over 50 families biweekly.
During her year of service, Natalie will travel across Virginia serving as the official ambassador for the Virginia Association of Fairs at many fairs and festivals. She will also be the spokesperson for the Miss VAF community service program, “Read to Succeed” that, in just a few years, has collected nearly 40,000 books. The VAF serves its members through representation, education, information, and direction which will enhance their productivity, economic viability, and administrative capability, thus enhancing the economic growth, development, and quality of life of Virginia communities.
Natalie will be appearing at various festival events Friday, May 5, including the Coronation, presented by Morgan Orthodontics, and the Hang 10 Car Wash Firefighters’ Parade. She will ride on the Frederick County Fair float in the Glo Fiber Grand Feature Parade, which begins at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. Tickets to Festival events are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
Sharen Gromling, President of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® is pleased to announce Elizabeth Lynch as the featured speaker for the Ladies Horticultural Luncheon presented by Spring Arbor Assisted Living.
Elizabeth Lynch made history when she became the second Miss West Virginia to make the Top Five at the Miss America Competition. The Martinsburg native finished as 3rd runner up to Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke from Wisconsin. A summa cum laude graduate of Delaware State University and a recent graduate of West Virginia University with a Master of Science in Food and Nutritional Science, Lynch will enter a Ph.D. program next fall, putting her $42,500 in scholarship earnings to good use.
A first-generation agriculturalist, Elizabeth is dedicating her year of service to agricultural industry promotion through her social impact “Growing Up, Growing Ag: Advocating for Agriculture”. She stated, "Agriculture is the backbone of our great nation. As Miss West Virginia, I will continue sharing the importance of agriculture and encourage everyone to thank a farmer.” Elizabeth’s message is two-fold: She wants everyone to understand where our food comes from and how it reaches our dining tables. Secondly, she wants to introduce young adults to the possibility of a career in the agricultural industry.
While at Delaware State University, Elizabeth was a D1 equestrian athlete, Presidential Scholar, and a Chi Alpha Sigma National Athletic Honors Society member. She is the recipient of the Evelyn Talbott Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service and the “Circle of Hearts” Miana Steward Memorial Award for her contribution to Horses with Hearts.
During graduate school, Elizabeth worked closely with Poultry Specialists to facilitate and conduct research and with the WVU Pilot Feed Mill for feed manufacturing. Most recently she taught agriculture extension workshops across the state as a WVU graduate research assistant.
Turning to social media, her weekly “Farmer Friday” broadcast features interviews with leaders in agriculture, farming, distribution and more. Every Friday guests tell their stories and often share important news as it happens in the industry. With more than 30 episodes and 3000 listeners on YouTube, “Farmer Friday” gives a voice to those in the industry while educating the public.
The Ladies Horticultural Luncheon will be held at Millwood Station Banquet Hall, 252 Costello Drive, on Friday, May 5, from 10:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 540-662-3409.
Eric Dickerson, Pro football Hall of Fame and record-breaking running back has been named Co-Sports Marshal by Sharen Gromling, president of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®
Dickerson was selected second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. An immediate success, he established rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing yards gained (1,808) and most touchdowns rushing (18), including another two receiving touchdowns. His efforts earned him All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.
In his second season, Dickerson continued his onslaught on the NFL record book becoming a member of the 2000 rushing yards club. Twelve times in 1984 he gained more than 100 yards rushing, breaking the record of 100-yard games in a season held by O.J. Simpson. His 2,105 total yards rushing beat Simpson’s 1973 NFL season record of 2,003 yards. No one has since rushed for more yards in a single NFL season. Dickerson retired from the NFL as the 2nd leading rusher of all-time and in 1999 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dickerson was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He is widely considered as one of the greatest running backs of all time.
Russ Potts, a Winchester sports enthusiast, while athletic director at SMU from 1978-1982, developed a friendship with Dickerson (SMU 1979-1982) that lasted through the years. Dickerson and Craig James, currently New England Patriots ESPN analyst, were running backs. SMU went 11-0 in the 1982 season. The duo of Dickerson and James became known as "The Pony Express", coined by Potts, referencing the SMU mascot, the Mustangs. Dickerson was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2021 for SMU.
Marcus Allen shared his positive 2015 Apple Blossom experience as Sport Marshal with Dickerson. Dickerson and his wife, Penny Sutton, graciously in turn, accepted the Festival invitation and will attend festival events on Friday, May 5, including the Coronation, presented by Morgan Orthodontics, and the Hang 10 Car Wash Firefighters’ Parade. He will be a featured speaker on Saturday, May 6, at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast at the Tolley Zone in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Event Center on the campus of Shenandoah University. They will then ride in the Glo Fiber Grand Feature Parade, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Dickerson's appearance is sponsored by Omps Funeral Home and Cremation Center.
Tickets to Festival events are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVII Champion and Millbrook High School standout athlete, Nazeeh Johnson named Co-Sports Marshal
His hometown community has called the play, and Nazeeh Johnson, local gridiron hero and 2023 Super Bowl Champion with the Kansas City Chiefs, has been named Co-Sports Marshal by Sharen Gromling, president of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®
Nazeeh Johnson triumphed as a 2023 Super Bowl Champion with the Kansas City Chiefs this past February. He achieved a goal of his youth! When he was five years old, after playing a few games of little league football, he went to his parents saying, “Dad, Mom! I’m going to play in the NFL!” His parents told him, as any parent would do, “Okay, son, just know that you can definitely do it, but it won’t be easy.” Since that moment, Nazeeh has worked his way to the top. Johnson has said, “I believe in living in the now and taking advantage of all my opportunities.” His parents are Kisha and Brian Brown of Winchester.
The rookie safety entered his first season with the Chiefs in 2022, being drafted in the 7th round (Pick #259). Johnson was waived on August 30, and the next day he was signed to the practice squad. On September 28, his name became part of the active roster. His running speed is described as explosive or like a rocket. In his first season, Johnson led the Chiefs in Special Teams tackles and played a crucial part in the longest punt return in NFL Super Bowl history, as the Chiefs went on to win Super Bowl LVII.
Johnson’s football career began with youth tackle football, participating in leagues across Northern Virginia and locally in the Shenandoah Valley including Fairfax, Prince William, and Clarke County. The family ultimately made the Frederick County community their home.
While playing youth football in Clarke County, Johnson was called “Z Bolt”, which eventually became “Bolt” or “Z”. While at James Wood Middle School and Millbrook High School, he ran track to develop more speed and played basketball to enhance his agility. Millbrook High School Pioneers was the next step to reaching his ultimate goal. Johnson graduated from Millbrook High School in 2016.
Johnson was unranked coming out of high school but enrolled as a “preferred walked-on” with the Marshall Thundering Herd. In 2018 he earned his scholarship with Marshall. He started four seasons in 44 of 45 games. His had 302 tackles, six tackles with loss, one sack, seven interceptions, a defensive touchdown, and defended19 passes. His Herd Pro Day was incredibly productive and meaningful, running a 4.35-second 40-yard dash and jumping an impressive 42.5 inches. Johnson was named All-Conference USA for three seasons, and he received the Unsung Hero Award in his final year. This honor is awarded to Herd players who make significant contributions to team success and are least recognized.
Nazeeh Johnson is described as humble and quiet. He prefers spending time with his family and loved ones. Family, football, video games, and community: these are what Nazeeh hold near and dear to his heart. And he is near to the hearts of those in his community. Winchester and fans across the region were focused on #13 and cheered him all the way to his final play on that Super Bowl Sunday 2023.
Nazeeh and his wife, Kensley, will be attending festival events on Friday, May 5, including the Coronation, presented by Morgan Orthodontics, and the Hang 10 Car Wash Firefighters’ Parade. He will be a featured speaker on Saturday, May 6 at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast at the Tolley Zone in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Convention Center on Shenandoah University Campus. They will then ride in the Glo Fiber Grand Feature Parade, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Johnson’s appearance is sponsored by Omps Funeral Home and Cremation Center.
Tickets to Festival events are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is pleased to announce that writer and civic advocate, Pete Davis, will speak at the Valley Health Business at the Bloom presented by Top of Virginia Regional Chamber. The luncheon will be held at 11:00 am on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at the Tolley Dental Zone in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center on the campus of Shenandoah University. Davis is the author of Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing and co-producer of Join or Die, a feature documentary on community in America.
Pete resides in Falls Church, Virginia where he works on civic projects aimed at deepening American democracy and solidarity. He is the co-founder of the Democracy Policy Network, a state policy organization focused on raising up ideas that deepen democracy. In 2015, he co-founded Getaway, a company that provides simple, unplugged escapes to tiny cabins outside of major cities. His 2018 Harvard Law School graduation speech, “A Counterculture of Commitment,” has been viewed more than 30 million times.
Pete is also the author of Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission, a book on reviving Harvard Law School’s public interest mission, and the co-author of How To Get Away: Finding Balance in our Overworked, Overcrowded, Always-On World, a book articulating Getaway’s philosophy of balancing technology and disconnection, city and nature, and work and leisure. His opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Daily News, Aeon, The Guardian, Fast Company, America Magazine, and The Falls Church News-Press.
Tickets for Valley Health Business at the Bloom presented by Top of Virginia Regional Chamber are available at www.thebloom.com/events.
Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® and local businesses partner with Sherando High School Art Department students on Festival-inspired coloring book
Winchester, VA – Coloring book enthusiasts are in for a special treat this spring thanks to a partnership between the Sherando High School art department and Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®. Last year SHS art teacher, Jillian Legge, approached the Festival with the idea of a community project and fundraiser for her students to design a Festival-inspired coloring book highlighting popular Apple Blossom events. “This project is so much more than just learning in the classroom. It showcases the artistic talent of the students in our schools and helps raise funds for our program. Most importantly, it has been an incredible self-esteem booster for the students and provides an opportunity to bring joy to the community,” Legge stated. The high school art department has a strong need to raise funds for upgrades like new pottery wheels, light tables for image transfers, art supplies, educational experiences, and trips for the students. Engaging the next generation of festivalgoers continues to be a priority for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® and this partnership has opened another door to working with and supporting local students. This project has proven to be a perfect fit for both organizations.
High school participation has been an integral part of the Festival since its inception. High school bands march in our parades, showcasing their musical talents. Elementary students sing and perform on stage during the Coronation of Queen Shenandoah. The coloring book project reveals the incredible artistic talents and shares a glimpse of their personal interests. SHS student, Connor Sanders shared, “In creating the 10K race page, I saw this as an opportunity to combine my love of art with my love for sports. I wanted it to be more than a coloring page, allowing for creative expression where each person can incorporate their own drawings by adding faces to the runners, as well as bib numbers."
Students used a variety of techniques and drawing styles including hand and digitally drawn. Hand drawn art was created on paper and then digitally uploaded while the digitally drawn art was captured on tablets and computers using a stylus. Some student design inspiration came through shared event and venue photos, while others ventured out to capture photos of the landscape to incorporate into their art. SHS art student Annalise Sison described her inspiration as, “For my piece in the coloring book, I started by looking up different Apple Blossom parade floats. Once I picked one, I went to downtown Winchester and took pictures of the Handley Library. Using older images of the parade float I chose and my photos of the library as references, I drew out a rough idea of the coloring book page. After that, I uploaded the sketch onto my computer and used it as an outline to draw my final piece digitally on my art tablet through Medibang Paint. I don't have much experience with drawing architecture, so this was a good experience for me, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity!”
Twenty-seven Sherando High School artists ranging from freshmen to seniors shared their talents in the production of the Festival coloring book and students approached local businesses requesting their financial support and being distribution outlets for the project. Four seniors in the art department recognize that they are paving the way for the next generation of art students and helping to enhance the classroom experience. These seniors understand that this project will support new resources for the classroom for years to come. SHS Senior Alleigh Nowell stated, "As a senior, I was excited for the opportunity to help contribute to a better art program for my younger brother who will be taking art as a freshman next year."
Art students who participated in the coloring book project had such a great experience that many are volunteering at the Festival’s Souvenir Store and helping spruce up the floats for the Grand Feature Parade.
Coloring books will be sold for $10/each. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the coloring books will support the Sherando High School art department. Books are on sale at the following locations beginning on Monday, March 20, 2023: Sherando High School, West Oaks Farm Market, Richards Fruit Market, Winchester Book Gallery, Lantz’s Pharmacy and Spring Valley Farmers Market. Books will be on sale at the Apple Blossom Souvenir Store in the Apple Blossom Mall in early April.
Special thanks to the generous financial support provided by Lantz’s Pharmacy, Kingspan, Commercial Press, United Bank, Stephens City Family Dentistry, Gore’s Meats, West Oaks Farm Market, Marker Miller Orchards, Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum and the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®.
For more information, visit www.thebloom.com.
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the beauty of springtime and the apple blossoms in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley through events and initiatives that enhance community spirit and showcases our local agricultural heritage.