Rites of Spring

My town is celebrating. It’s spring, the temperatures are warm, windows are thrown open and people are in a good mood again. On the farms, they’ve finished planting potatoes, beans and wheat. In the towns we’ve dragged out the patio furniture. But the big reason to celebrate is apples. Thats right, apples.

Every spring for the past 82 years Wenatchee has celebrated our famous–ok, I’m going to say it, world-famous, apples. They’re in bloom. Up the valley toward Cashmere, you see the orchards, orderly squares of exuberant trees brimfull of blossoms, elegant white against the green hills. Along the Columbia river, driving to Chelan, the apple trees are full to bursting with flowers. Contrasted with the water, the hillside vineyards, and the rocks of the gorges, it’ll make you happy.

In home-town celebration of this remarkable annual occurrence, this week we’ve got parades, music, tournaments, pie-eating contests, arts and crafts fairs, and a carnival. We’ve also got an Apple Blossom queen and two princesses, and yes, they ride on a float in the grand parade and wave. This whole thing is a scene out of a movie set in the 1950s. And I like it a lot. It might seem a throw-back to some. It could be asked, Where is the Apple Blossom king? But then, you’d have to be pretty uptight to rail about gender neutrality at a time like this.

I’m originally from Seattle. So I understand that we’re supposed to be more sophisticated than this. Too cool and appropriately alienated to challenge a neighbor to eat more pie in five minutes than you can. But it’s this sense of community, of tradition, that I’m grateful still exists. Volunteers work a septillion hours getting ready for this week. When the week arrives, the town fills. We rub elbows with folks (certainly not from HERE) who think Apple Blossom is chance to get drunk in a park and not freeze to death if you crash under an apple tree. But we also celebrate kids with a chaotic children’s parade, the local arts scene (which is huge) and music–blues, jazz, acoustic rock, funky soul, and the extraordinary range of Mariachi bands and folklorico, ranchera and Duranguense. I’ll be there, eating a corn dog and greeting neighbors.

Somewhere in all this is the seed of an ancient agricultural rite. Back when settlements depended on the plantings, and people were grateful for the soil and the sun and what it brought forth. Hope I never get too refined and cynical to celebrate such a thing; to stand on the curb and return the waves from the big float, wishing the Apple Blossom queen a good reign.

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