Apple Blossom Festivals Once Great Crowd-Pullers Held At Rogers from 1923 to 1927 More Than 35,000 Attend Fete; Rain Too Much For Event From Northwest Arkansas Times (Progress Edition) December 30, 1950 Now the NWA Democrat Gazette
Thousand of persons attended the five annual Apple Blossom Festivals which were held at Rogers from 1923 to 1927, and the colorful events attracted nationwide publicity. But the heavy rains which plagued the events caused them to be discontinued after a particularly wet pageant in 1927.
The first festival was held at Rogers on April 24 and 25, 1923. It was local in nature. But by 1926 attendance reached a peak of more than 35,000 persons from a wide area.
Known for many years as the "land of the big red apple," Benton County then had many acres of apple orchards which in the spring were most attractive. Credited with originating the idea for the festival was W. R. Cady.
Cady advocated an apple festival to the Rogers Rotary Club and later to the Rogers Community Club. Receiving some encouragement, Cady next presented his idea to a mass meeting March 25 at the old Rogers Opera House.
The plan was approved at the meeting, at which Cady presided and W. T. Maxwell was secretary. A committee was set up to conduct the event, composed of Cady, J. W. Stroud, R. H. Whitlow, E. C. Lone, J. S. Elder, and W. F. D. Batjer.
Queen Crowned in 1923
First queen of the Apple Blossom Festival was Miss Ruby Robinson, crowned in 1923 at the Academy campus. Despite rain on the first day of the first festival, the attractive floats, the parade and other ceremonies were well received, although the participants and onlookers were mostly local.
The territory involved in the festival was widened considerably in time for the second festival in 1924.
The Hiwasse float from the 1924 Apple Blossom Festivial
Several Northwest Arkansas communities participated in the festival queen's contest, and the winner was Miss Dot Webb of Pea Ridge, Miss Webb was crowned by U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson - in the rain. Her maidens were Delpha Tuck, Fayetteville; Pearl Osborne, Rogers; Lillian Jones, Bentonville; Kathryn Lancaster, Siloam Springs; Ruth Green, Centerton; Leta McAllister, Gravette; Nina Westphal, Sulphur Springs; Alice Richardson, Gentry; and Dot Horton, Hiwasse.
5,000 Persons Attend
Some 5,000 persons are said to have attended the 1924 festival, despite the heavy downpour of rain which caused mud to mire up around many visitors' cars. Events other than the coronation and parade included the queen's banquet, with special entertainment.
As in the first and second festivals, rain was an important - though uninvited - part of the 1925 pageant at Rogers. Rain fell all morning of the opening day, then drenched the afternoon parade, which for the first time included a number of floats insured against the weather. The coronation program and evening outdoor program were likewise soaked.
Despite the excess water, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 persons - the largest gathering up to that time in Rogers' history - attended the Apple Blossom Festival. Scott Hamilton of Fayetteville directed the parade, which included 34 decorated floats and cars.
The Prairie Grove Battlefield float entered in the 1925 Apple Blossom Festival
19 Towns Enter Floats
Nineteen Northwest Arkansas towns entered floats in the parade of 1925. Bands were from the University [of Arkansas, presumably], John Brown College, Bentonville, Eureka Springs and Garfield.
Queen of the 1925 festival was Miss Helen Duckworth of Siloam Springs, crowned by Gov. Tom Terral. Maids of honor were Alice Letch, Fayetteville; Uarda McDonald, Springdale; Alice Basbam, Prairie Grove; Lois White, Rogers; Mildred Dickenson, Bentonville; Gladys Wyatt, Avoca; Clara Stroud, Cave Springs; Ruth Brown, Centerton; Izella Baker, Garfield; Gladys Shepherd, Gentry; Vina Russell, Gravette; Delphia Rogers, Lincoln; Gladys Edwards, Hiwasse; Demma Patterson, Pea Ridge; Mary Eldred, Sulphur Springs, and Frances Graham, Lowell.
Boxes of fancy apples were sent as part of the festivals to the president of the United States, to the governor, and to a very few other person, including Will Rogers.
No Rain In 1926
The city of Rogers fairly well bulged at the seams in 1926, the year of the biggest and best of the Apple Blossom Festivals. The apple trees were in full bloom -- months early -- and it did not rain.
The 1926 event opened April 15. A conservative estimate of the crowd at this festival was 35,000 persons, with visitors coming to Rogers in special trains and hundreds of automobiles.
Governor Terral crowned Miss Lillian Ivy of Fayetteville queen of the 1926 festival. Previous coronations had been held on the Academy campus, but in 1926 the coronation was moved to the amphitheater on the east side of town.
Queen Lillian's maids were Bertha Osborne, Rogers; Virginia Owensby, Springdale; Marie Baggett, Prairie Grove; Elise Snodgrass, Lincoln; Lena Black, Bentonville; Mildred Shermer, Siloam Springs; Mildred Thurman, Avoca; Winnie Fields, Centerton; Ruth Fuller, Eureka Springs; Izella Baker, Garfield; Nina Austin, Gentry; Ruby Seitz, Green Forrest; Jewelle Fowler, Harrison; Velma Nichols, Hiwasse; Dorothy Thomas, Lowell; Meta Pierce, Pea Ridge; and Helen Daniels, Sulphur Springs.
Twenty towns in addition to Rogers were represented by floats in the big parade, and a dozen bands were included from these cities: Springfield, Mo., Joplin, Mo., Fort Smith, Harrison, Fayetteville (University), Bentonville, Eureka Springs, Siloam Springs (John Brown College), Berryville and Green Forest, as well as musicians from Springdale.
The fourth festival was studded with entertainment features, with some activity going on almost all the time.
1st Place Bentonville float at the 1926 Apple Blossom Festivial
Last Festival In 1927
The rain which had been absent for the first time in 1926 returned to the Apple Blossom Festival in 1927 -- the last festival to be held. Although the event was scheduled for April 14, the heavy rain caused all activities except the queen's banquet to be postponed until the following Easter Sunday, April 17.
About 20,000 persons turned up for the final 1927 festival. Floats were entered from 17 cities and Rogers; there would have been 20, except that the floats which came from Winslow and Fayetteville on the 14th were unable to return on the 17th, and the Huntsville float was washed down the War Eagle River on the 14th.
Miss Dorothy Butt of Eureka Springs was crowned queen of the final festival. Gov. John E. Martineau was to have officiated at the coronation, but he was unable to return after attending the banquet on the 14th, and Congressman John Tillman of Fayetteville took his place at the coronation.
Miss Butt's maids of honor were: Frances Bates, Fayetteville: Pauline Webber, Springdale; Marian Puckett, Rogers; Mildred Adcock, Bentonville; Nell Redus, Harrison; Ruby Thasher, West Fork; Josephine Millsap, Greenland: Imogene Henson, Lincoln; Willa Mae Foreman, Siloam Springs; Glen Stockburger, Winslow; Marguerite Berry, Avoca; Esther Barker, Cave Springs; Lena Koons, Centerton; Verda Wilks, Garfield; Ada Mae Carl, Gentry; Ruth Austin, Gravette; Lorraine Coger, Hindsville; Ruth Hargis, Huntsville; Christine Carter, Lowell; Irene Graham, Monte Ne; Ernestine Ricketts, Pea Ridge; Mary Putman, War Eagle; Ollie Barnes, Prairie Grove; and Leanna Mackey, Sulphur Springs.
Bands participated from Fayetteville, Pea Ridge and Harrison.
The Apple Blossom Festivals proved to be the biggest crowd-attracting events staged in Northwest Arkanas up to that time, but the record of four out of five rainy festivals apparently served to discourage those responsible for staging the events.
Panoramic view showing the crowd watching a performance at the Apple Blossom Festival in Rogers, Arkansas