When the annual question "Are there blossoms yet?" comes during Blossom Festival this year, the answer will at some point certainly be "yes."
Blossom Fest enters a new era in 2012. This year, the Chamber of Commerce puts out the welcome mat for not one but three weekends.
All the details about the 58th annual festival are in the Panorama special section included in this edition of the Hood River News.
Agriculture, recreation, history, art, wine and beer, and plenty of other ingredients for a vibrant community are all on display in the articles and photos in Panorama. Special thanks to local residents who sent in their favorite photos of the Gorge.
As with 2011, the section is now four sub-sections: Blossoms, Community, Reflections and Recreation.
The Recreation section includes a comprehensive calendar, with photos, of spring and summer outdoor sports events, from the kids' triathlon to professional kiteboarding competitions, and biking, hiking, swimming and more.
It's an attempt to mirror the breadth and depth of Blossom Fest itself. Expanding the festival to three weeks certainly reflects the range and diversity of possibilities that is Blossom every year. The festival was always geared to visitors and locals alike, but by expanding it to three weeks, locals will be better able to plan to attend events that serve local community groups.
Craft and quilt shows, pancake breakfasts, a pansy party, a grange blossom dinner, wine and beer tasting are all part of the festivities. Baked goods, preserves, art, yarn, fresh produce - there's something for everyone.
Another dimension to this year's Blossom is that Lions Follies opens on the festival's first weekend, April 13-15.
"Locally people have always honed in on the weekend; while visitors look at coming for the season," noted Chamber Executive Director Kerry Cobb.
So the decision was made to expand the festival to three weeks. That way, people can choose to come when the blossoms are here. Cobb said that next year the chamber plans to add a map to its website showing, in real time, where in the valley the fruit trees are in bloom.
"That's what people want - to see the blossoms," Cobb said. The chamber heard strong support for expanding the festival, and the staff will communicate with merchants, growers and vendors over the next two years to monitor how well the change to three weekends is working.
It's a step that seems to meet more people's needs and interests, and enables to chamber to spend the same amount of on marketing three weekends as it always had for just one.
Blossoms everywhere or not, the festival starts this weekend. In another change, the chamber has built two kiosks to be stationed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday of all three Blossom weekends, at exits 62 and 64. That way, people can find magazines, brochures and other information all day both days, whether chamber volunteers are present or not.