Memory Lane

We want to know about your favorite Blossomtime memories. All entries will be reviewed before posting and may be used for other media promotions. There are no requirements for length of posting, but we would appreciate concise and accurate postings. Blossomtime reserves the right to edit all postings.

It is nearly impossible to summarize my experience with the Blossomtime Festival and the impact it has had on my life. When deciding to go out for my first pageant, I had no idea what to expect. I presumed there would be lip stick, glitter, and hair spray (all of which I assumed correctly); but to a much grander scale were the life skills, unforgettable experiences, and valuable friendships not only during my reign, but for my lifetime.
Blossomtime increased my confidence in so many ways. I can walk into a job interview and know how to present myself in a professional, mature manner. I am able to speak in front of a crowd without my knees shaking beneath me. Additionally, I am able to use proper etiquette during meals and still be able to laugh and learn from my mistakes. It has been nearly three years since I was crowned and I am still benefiting from the social skills I learned as queen.
There’s also an opposite benefit most people are unaware of.  I was continuously humbled by the many volunteers who work hard to make this Festival happen. Each person is selfless and ready to lend a helping hand. The wonderful people in the Blossomtime office, the community chairmen, and the countless volunteers deeply care about the community queens and kings. At each event I was overwhelmed with kindness from these people.
The true meaning behind Blossomtime is how it brings people and their communities together while changing lives in the process. I have met people with different personalities and interests and find it wonderful that everyone is beautiful in their own way. You never know who is going to step in and change your life and you also never know whose life you are going to impact in return.
I now know what it means to be held accountable for my actions. I felt the weight of that responsibility through the attention of the younger children and their watchful eyes. The youth offered their attention, emulation and admiration and it was imperative that the Blossomtime court held the highest standards. It is important to serve as a positive role models through both words and actions. Although this was a very big responsibility, I always felt prepared through the support and guidance of the women at the Blossomtime Office and chair people. They did an amazing job balancing the serious roles I was expected to fulfill and having a great time in the process.
At the beginning of this journey I was told I was going to have a fun year; that is the biggest understatement. Blossomtime has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and I am so grateful for the experience. I know this festival changes many lives every year and I cannot wait to see the way it grows in the future.
Lisa Bowman, Miss Blossomtime 2011

Blossomtime is more than a pageant that occurs every year, more than the beautiful gowns, the makeup, the hair, and the glitz and glam. Blossomtime is a family which I am so blessed to be a part of. In 2010, I gained 21 sister queens and countless amounts of new friends who will always have a special place in my heart. There are so many misconceptions of pageants of how they are fake and misleading, but this is not that case. Every single young woman that is on that stage has done great things for her family, friends, and community. The Blossomtime Pageant really highlights the amazing people, and area we live in. I feel honored and blessed to live and be apart of this wonderful area of Southwest Michigan. It has been over one hundred years that Blossomtime has been going on, and I would love to see it go on for many more. Thank you to The Blossomtime Festival for all of the laughs and the lifelong memories that I will cherish forever.
Much love,
Kyra Heit, Miss Blossomtime 2010 

Hello. It’s me! 🙂 Raija Woods, Miss Benton Harbor and contestant number twenty one. 🙂 I just wanted to say thank you all for everything, It is truly appreciated by myself and the other community queens I’m sure. From the food to the smiles to the advice and make up tips I’ll never forget this experience! The stage was beautiful and the show went well. I am so proud to have been a part of this. Thank you all so much!!
Raija Woods, Miss Benton Harbor 2012

Dear Ladies and Volunteers of Blossomtime,
I want to tell you how fun and life changing this whole experience  has been. Even though I did not win a Mr. Blossomtime title I have  learned so much about myself and neighboring communities. Without you ladies working so hard for us, I would have never met 39 new friends.  This organization has truly given me so much more than just new  experiences. The Blossomtime organization has shown me a NEW me. I am a more confident and strong person coming out of this whole experience. I used to be a social guy coming that would talk to people but I was a  little scared to be the first to approach someone. Now I am a social   butterfly floating around talking to everybody and anybody. I have  truly broken out of my shell or “cocoon”. I love talking to people, and meeting new people now. Not only has Blossomtime given me the opportunity to meet new people but help me break through my confidence barrier.
Blossomtime has taught me life long lessons, such as stand up straight, smile, laugh at the right times, be serious at the right times, don’t slouch, and of coarse embrace everybody and every moment. I will keep these lesson with me throughout my life.
Thank you again
Nik Rettig, Mr. New Buffalo 2011

I just want to say thank you so much for such an amazing experience. It really made me learn alot about myself. It was exhausting and wore me out but it was worth every second. I will for sure miss spending the weekend with my amazing sisters and the amazing people you guys have helping out but I know we will still be together. Even though I didn’t get anything I feel that this whole experience was very life changing. I love all of my sisters to death and those judges definatly made the best choice. All of those beautiful ladies definatly deserve it! Thank you and all of the Blossomtime helpers. This weekend really meant a lot to me. I hope you guys realize how much of an impact you can make on someones life, even by not giving them a crown! (:
Deanna Burrows, Miss Bangor 2011

The Blossomtime Festival holds a special place in my heart. I had the honor of becoming the first queen from Bloomingdale to ever win the title in 2000. I had no idea how being crowned would impact my life. After winning the title, I received many scholarships to help pay for my college tuition. The title of Miss Blossomtime has paid off because I will soon be graduating from Western Michigan University with honors. I wish to thank the many sponsors of Blossomtime who helped make that possible. The volunteers were also very helpful and patient with me throughout the year. I was able to experience many parades, meet many important individuals and had the opportunity to support the agriculture in Southwest Michigan. No one will ever know how greatly appreciative I am for the people who run the organization. They put in many hours to make this festival a success. In the future, I hope to participate in many activities and once again be part of the Blossomtime Festival.
Kelli Brady, Miss Blossomtime 2000; Allegan MI

This is McKenzie Geralds Mother, this years #38 contestant. I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting on such a great pageant. McKenzie had such a great time and although she did not win she had a BLAST!! She was up till midnight so hyper you would have thought she brought home the crown. Goes to say a lot about how you all make all the girls feel so special. We had a great time and she has begged me already… Can I do it again, please. So I don’t think I could say no, considering how great of a time she had. Thank you for all your hard work. WE have made it a tradition each year attending Blossomtime parades, local community pageants and Miss Blossomtime, we think they have a great thing going and couldn’t resist being part of that. Thanks Again!
Miki Ruhl, 2009

I apologize in advance for the length of this. I just couldn’t stop running down that memory lane.
1982 was the best year of my life. Looking back at the abundance of memories that we all do from time to time, I can honestly say that Blossomtime was not only the best thing that ever happened to me in my youth, but the most rewarding. This 100th compelled me to find my “Blossomtime trunk” somewhere in the depths of my garage and rifle through it. Well, it took a longer time to go through it than I thought and almost bringing me to tears at times.
Mr. & Mrs. Youdell, my surrogate parents, I sure miss them; they were the best and always treated me so well as if I were their own daughter. All the times changing clothes in the back of the car between events and showing up looking like I took all day to get ready thanks to Sue. Never mentioning that we got lost, or I was too tired to pull it off. They were the most positive people I could have been around during that stressful, but fun year.
Oh, the people I met and knew back then. I remember them well, Bud and Karen…. I mean Mr. & Mrs. Dudas. What a couple they are. One of my favorites was Mr. Bill Darwin, what a sweetheart he is. With all of this to consider, I would say that my most memorable time through all of this hustle and bustle of honoring the crown was when we were invited to the Indy 500 and I was adorned atop of a lap car while waving at the crowds before the race. Going through the snake pit first to get to the track was shocking for me at that age, but I can look back at what originally repulsed me and laugh even about that now that I am older…. Much older. J The ultimate that I still speak of today is when I met Mickey Mantle, (and sorry for the family’s loss) Mr. Denzel Washington, who still involves himself with the community being a spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Mr. Mario Andretti who gave me a kiss after Karen Dudas snuck me into the pit area even though I was not of age yet. My Il persona amico Italiano. (Fellow Italian friend).
Visiting the Sate of Michigan’s House of Representative’s and actually speaking in front of all of those wise and powerful people. That was so exhilarating. Then having my own apple tree at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farms in Eau Claire was something my entire family finally got to appreciate.
There is one final memory that has stayed close to my heart that I would like to share with you. Going to the Chicago Shriners Hospital for Children. I met a little boy named Chris who was restricted from leg braces. Not so much so after we got to know each other as I chased him and he got away every time. J Many Children there were bed ridden yet so happy to see all of the queens that day. It touched me deeply and forever. From that day on, those funny men riding little bikes wearing red tasseled hats took on a completely new meaning for me. I love to see them in every small town parade, which I still attend every chance I get.
This could go on forever, but those are the highlights and fond memories that come to mind first and foremost. As I said before and now it is obvious, that year was the most positive, life altering and wonderful year of almost my whole life. I would say the only thing that would top that was when my son was born. So I guess that makes Blossomtime second, sorry Blossomtime. L J
I look forward to being a part, even if a small part, of the Blossomtime festivities again. Could I ask you about how to contact some of the people mentioned above? The Youdell’s and Dudas’? Maybe even Denzel? Okay, the last one may not be possible, but I will anxiously await your response.
Thank you Blossomtime for all that you have helped make me today. See you all soon. With Admiration and Respect,
Nina “Ritter” Soli, Miss Blossomtime 1982

All of my memories of Blossomtime are my favorite. Picking just one is almost impossible.
Some of my most fondest are when the Queens spent the week together during the Community tours. Everyone was so supportive of each other and we all made some wonderful friendships. I especially remember the way each community showed everyone of their Queens how proud they were of them.
I feel privileged and honored to have been part of such a wonderful festival where all the communities come together with so much pride.
Happy Birthday Blossomtime and thanks for the memories that are forever with me. 🙂
Debra (Lichnerowicz) Anderson, Miss Hartford/Miss Blossomtime 1974

What a thrill to see the “Memories” note from Nina Ritter, Miss Blossomtime of 1982. Nick & I do remember her fondly as “one of our Blossomtime Daughters”. We have often wondered about all of our “girls” and where they are now and what they are doing.
We really didn’t mind being called “Mother Superior” and “Col. Klink”. I figure that during the 16 years we worked with the queens and during my tenure on the Board, we had between 450 and 500 adopted daughters.
I remember when Sue Nitz, who was Miss Baroda at the time, gave me a gift at her Keys to the Cities stop in Baroda… it was a gallon of water and a box of Kleenex.. to replace all the tears I had shed at EVERY girl’s home town. And how about the time Laurie Young, the Blossomtime Miss Congeniality, sang “The Rose” backed up by all the other queens, after dinner at the Cook Nuclear Visitors Center and all the guys.. including Bud Dudas, Don Jewel and Bob Braamse were almost in tears.
There are so many people and so many memories. We are hoping to see many friends when we come to the 100th Birthday Party this year. Andy, do you need some body paint this year? I did it before and I can do it again if need be. Lanie, you have become a beautiful wife and mother… I don’t think you need to have an “Spanish Donnia” sit in the corner of the room with you any more!
Bob, have you lost any of the queens on any of the bus rides… when actually she had fallen asleep in the back of the bus under the coats? Who else remembers the time we found the ladder that was set up on the back side of the Travel Inn .. thank goodness the bathroom windows were too small to get in or out… but someone had a nice long conversation that night! Gertie, what fun we had doing all the fashion shows… no one can describe a gown any better than you.
And of course… how many of you remember the year we co-chaired the Grand Floral Ball with Ted & JoAnn Hollacher and were fortunate enough to have Zilke’s Nursery from Baroda “Plant” all those real, flowering fruit trees and flowering bushes and plants that transformed the Lake Michigan College ball room into a REAL LIVE garden complete with twinkling lights for stars!
Can you tell we love the BLOSSOMTIME Festival. We look through our photo albums and relive all those wonderful memories. I think we got much more out of Blossomtime than we ever gave!
Best wishes for a wonderful festival.. can’t wait to get there to celebrate with all of you and renew old friendships.
Susan Youdell, Former Blossomtime Festival President; Cumming, GA

My fondest Blossomtime Festival memory was watching a fellow student be crowned Miss Blossomtime this past March. It’s a first for Watervliet to wear the crown and our community is excited to take part in many Blossomtime events this coming year. Memories are sure to be made as they have already. Watervliet and Watervliet High School are proud to have such an excellent young lady representing our town and Blossomtime. Our school was crazy the day after the contest. Students and staff were buzzing about Jamie claming the history making title as Miss Blossomtime 2006. Pictures were scattered throughout the office while many stared in awe at the crowning moment, which was printed on the front page of The Herald Palladium. The following year will be filled with memories to last a lifetime for Jamie and the community of Watervliet. Happy 100th Birthday Blossomtime!
Kyle Green, Vice President Watervliet HS Student Council

My favorite memories of Blossomtime were: going to the Great Lakes Navel Hospital in Chicago; seeing the play “Hello Dolly” with Carol Channing; staying at the Palmer House; Keys to the Cities tour; The Grand Floral Parade. All of it was a memorable time and a wonderful experience.
Marty Krause Smith, Miss Blossomtime 1966; Berrien Springs MI

My favorite Memories of Blossomtime are: The whole entire Blossomtime experience was full of Memories that I will never forget! The ones that stand out were meeting all of the people that I met and the unexpected ones. For example, being recognized by students at the elementary schools and being able to make them feel good about themselves. That is such an honor and I will never forget that feeling.
Kaylee Magro, Miss Blossomtime 2005; Three Oaks MI

My favorite Memories of Blossomtime are: MANY. Some that stand out are: Being chosen at Berrien Springs; the finals at the Liberty Theater in Benton Harbor; trips to various outlying areas and to Chicago “Century of Progress” My visit with Mayor Kelley–Key to the City of Chicago presented by Polly Moran(a comedienne) on stage of Chicago theater. Many enjoyable visits at the “Century of Progress” many countries were represented. My wonderful committee who treated me and all others with respect and caring. Many letters from friend, strangers, and relatives. It was great!
Marion Evans Iannelli, Miss Blossomtime 1933; Benton Harbor MI

I have very fond memories of the camaraderie, support and fun we had as we toured on the Key to the Cities; the trip to Chicago; and all the other functions we attended.
Annette Miller Hood, Miss Blossomtime 1953; Owosso MI

How gracious all the people were that were involved. All of
my memories are joyous. I wish you a very successful festival and I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend.
Lillian Shepard Gardner, Miss Blossomtime 1929; Monette MO

I have so many wonderful memories of Blossomtime. They started well before I was selected as Miss Blossomtime in 1984 and extend well past the year of my reign.
From watching the parade as a young child and attending the carnival to returning home for the parade almost every year so I can visit with all of my friends on the various Blossomtime committees.
I had an amazing year when I was Miss Blossomtime. The Key to the Cities Tour was a great week culminating in the Grand Floral Ball which was like a fairy tale. I think the most rewarding thing that we did was to visit the Shriner’s Crippled Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Talk about giving you perspective. The most exciting part of my reign was going to Indianapolis, IN for the Indianapolis 500 Festival. The Parade, The BAll, and of course The Race were amazing.
However I think the best thing that I take away from the Blossomtime Festival is the lifelong friends that I have made. Every time I come back to Michigan for Blossomtime I look forward to seeing Don & Judy, Bob, Gertie,and of course my favorite Police escort Brett. Thank you for all of the memories and all of the opportunities.
Bonnie(Goldner)Hackman, Miss Blossomtime 1984; Queen Creek, AZ

I was introduced to Blossomtime 33 years ago when I was crowned Miss Blossomtime of 1973. I was shocked a couple months before when I was crowned Miss Bridgman so having an honor like this was so exciting! Having the experience created such wonderful memories too numerous to mention all of them. There are a few that I would like to share though. Tour Week with all of my sister queens is the memory that stands out the most. I made lasting friendships that have lasted till the present. The only thing that I did at every community is shed some tears because of happiness expressing how each sister queen deserved the honor of being their queen. The Indy 500, our trip to Chicago to be on the Ray Rayner Show and Orien Samuelson Farm Show was a highlight! All of the committee of Blossomtime- Jim Barricklow, Bob Bramse, Dick & Kay Ward, Phyllis Dowsett and many, many others made my year an unforgettable one. I am so thankful that I had the privilege to be a part of this unique Festival!!! Thank you Blossomtime for all of the “Memories” and Happy Birthday!!!!!
Deborah (Zemke) Miller, Bridgman Miss Blossomtime “1973”

The night I was crowned Miss Blossomtime 1993 was a turning point in my life, putting me in a position to pursue my modeling career and giving me the confidence to carry out that dream. For all of this and much more, I feel indebted to the Blossomtime Pageant.
Some of my fondest memories of my reign as Miss Blossomtime include traveling around on the bus in the Keys to the Cities Tour with all the other queens, seeing their communities and making friends along the way; visiting the children at the Shriner’s Hospital and being touched by their reactions to us playing with them on the floor, crowns and all; and of course the Indianapolis 500 – whisking around the track and hearing the roar of the crowd just before the race began with celebrities such as Larry Bird and Matt LeBlanc.
I am so proud and honored to be a part of the 100th year Blossomtime Festival and wish everyone a blossomy time of year.
Natasha Bell Silver, Miss Blossomtime 1993; New York NY

1982 was the best year of my life. Looking back at the abundance of memories that we all do from time to time, I can honestly say that Blossomtime was not only the best thing that ever happened to me in my youth, but the most rewarding. This 100th compelled me to find my “Blossomtime trunk” some where in the depths of my garage and rifle through it. Well, it took a longer time to go through it than I thought. Mr. & Mrs. Youdell, my surrogate parents, I sure miss them, they were the best and always treated me so well as if I were their own daughter. All the times changing clothes in the back of the car between events and showing up looking like I took all day to get ready thanks to Sue.
Nannett Marie Ritter Soli, Miss Blossomtime 1982; Helotes TX

Memories Galore – Seems like yesterday, not 37 years ago, that a farm girl had the experience of a lifetime being chosen Miss Three Oaks and then Miss Blossomtime 1969. Great fun preparing for my local contest then meeting the other 31 area Queens. Many travels – going on the Keys to the Cities Tour; visiting the wounded Vietnam vets at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago; participating in the Indianapolis 500 parade, attending the Governor’s Reception, and watching the 500 race. Flying to Arkansas to pick up Miss America, Judith Ford, then on to her hometown of McHenry, Illinois, for a parade and attending the Chasco Fiesta Festival in New Port Richey, Florida. A few highlights of what I was so very fortunate to have experienced. Being Miss Blossomtime also gave me the wonderful opportunity to meet and know so many special people from the Blossomtime Board, the Central Queens Committee, as well as the citizens of southwestern Michigan when visiting their communities. I am very proud to be a part of the Blossomtime Festival and send my best wishes to all who have volunteered and participated through the years and especially on this very special 100th anniversary of Blossomtime!
Carla Sherrill Oney, Miss Blossomtime 1969; Owasso, Oklahoma

In 1972 I met a young lady at a meeting in St. Joseph and later asked her for a date. I discovered that she was the Executive Director of the Blossomtime Festival.
The Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce heard that we were dating and asked me if I would chair the local contest. After Phyllis assured me that this would not be a problem, I accepted. We had a fabulous committee and we worked hard and had a lot of fun. We must have done a pretty good job too because the first year we had 14 contestants, 27 the second year and the third year we had 35 contestants.
No matter how hard we tried and no matter how great our productions were, we never won the big prize. It had to be because of the “conflict” as we knew our contest was always the best!
In 1976 while all of the “Blossomtime Brass” was in Chicago touring with the Blossom Queens, Phyllis and I were married at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm on April 13th. Now 30 years later we are co chairing Blossomtime’s 100th Celebration committee.
My Blossomtime memories are many and very special. I have met many celebrities, attended numerous festivals across the country as Phyllis judged parades or attended International Festival Conferences; the Seattle Sea Fair, Canton Football Hall of Fame, Indy “500”, and Aloha Festival in Hawaii are just a few of the fun places we visited.
Some of the more interesting “jobs” I was given were; escort, chaperone, judge, float builder, decorator, speaker and all around handy man. I even was a security guard or parade marshal for Clara Pellar, the “Where’s the Beef Lady”. That sure is a long parade route!!! One other interesting parade experience, I watched the same float break down in front of the reviewing stand two years in a row. It had to be towed both times.
It has all been fun and if you can’t have fun doing it….don’t do it is my motto.
Join us in a toast to the Blossomtime “100th” Celebration and thanks to all who over the 100 years have volunteered to keep this festival as great as it has been.
Dick Dowsett, St. Joseph MI

What a great experience it was when I was crowned “Miss
Blossomtime of 1957”.
I was so proud and felt so lucky to be the chosen queen for this contest as I felt every gal in the contest was a winner. It was so exciting to prepare for all the activities that were scheduled for Miss Blossomtime. I loved the Tour of the Cities, the parade, the traveling to New York and Washington, D.C.. We made a stop in Williamsburg where I planted a small tree with a plaque of Miss Blossomtime of 1957 with the promise that some day I would return and see my name on the plaque and see how large the tree had grown. I did return to the area some years later, but unfortunately, I could not find this special tree. I will always remember the super people that I worked with while on the reign and did run into many gals from the contest, but after my college, I moved out of the Michigan area and have lost touch with so many great people. Thank you again for the nice invitation to try to attend this year’s festivites, but I will not be able to attend. I send all of Blossomtime “My Best” for another successful celebration. I will be there in spirit.
Brenda Tait Nolan-1957 Miss South Haven & Miss Blossomtime, Dayton Ohio

Going back over the past forty years when I became part of the Blossomtime Festival, my heart swells with many emotions. The excitement of the thirty white convertibles, all in line, entering each community; the arrival of many movie and T.V. stars comming for the parade and the black tie Blossom Ball…at the elegantly decorated Shadowland Ballroom. The transformation of the Ballroom was a joint venture with the Whirlpool Old Timers. Through this we developed deep friendships which to this day we still enjoy.
As the first woman President and Fashion Show Chairman, I received a whole new extended family of brothers and sisters. It has been such a joy to share the world of some of the finest young people on our side of Michigan.
I am truly blessed and I say, to you Blossomtime on your
100th Birthday…
“Thanks for the Memories”.
Gertie Johnson, Bridgman MI

Wow – the memories that Blossomtime holds for me are very near and dear to my heart. I was Miss Bangor in 1986 – wow – 20 years have gone by and I remember it as if it were just yesterday that I was standing on the stage with 28 other beautiful women from the great SW Michigan. Who would have thought that the “Barber’s Daughter” would be a queen to start with yet get to represent one of the greatest communities in Michigan – Bangor. I have memories of Shelley Wagner – Miss Blossomtime and Debbie Lindgren who was Miss Three Oaks -when I gave them shirts made that read “I survived tour week with Miss Bangor 1986” and the farm tour when we got to hold those darling 3 day old piglets. I can remember thinking that chicken was the only meat that a queen should/could eat – as it seemed that no matter where we went – that is what we were served. I remember learning make-up times, interview skills and many things that have helped me to have the great “adult life” that I know today. Thank you for all the hard work you do to put on such a great pageant and the wonderful representation that you provide to the communities. I wish my 20 year successor the best of luck – you are a beautiful girl inside and out – and no matter what you will always be what I once was !! MISS BANGOR!!! so have the time of your life, make new friends and lasting memories. God Bless.
Chris Rigozzi Griffioen, Miss Bangor 1986, Bangor MI

The Blossomtime Parade is the highlight of the communities in Southwestern Michigan. I marched with the awesome TMB (Tiger Marching Band) in 1966 and 1967. Both of my sons marched with the TMB: James played percussion and eight years later his younger brother Michael was drum major. This is another special year because James’ daughter (my granddaughter) is Miss Benton Harbor and also a member of the TMB Pompon Squad.
Congratulation Dawntayia!! We are very proud of you and Best Wishes in the Miss Blossomtime pageant.
Your Grandmother and Grandfather, Ken and Jerri Gavin, Benton Harbor MI

Five years ago I participated in the Blossomtime Festival in the Mr. Blossomtime contest. I was so excited to be a representative of the Community of Bangor and most of all to be on the stage where the festival kicks off, I didn’t win any awards, however I didn’t realize that I hadn’t won until the next day. The experience was so much more than winning and gave me such an insight at confidence and public communication. Although I didn’t get to have the full Blossomtime experience of traveling throughout the Great SouthWest, I managed to live out the dream by being in the parade and just taking part. Blossomtime is a wonderful organization and I am grateful for the experience. I now work with the Miss Bangor Committee and couldn’t be any happier. I’m so excited about the 100th year and watching a beautiful queen Blossom through out the year.
Sincerely Joshua Grimes, Miss Bangor Committee Member

As I look back on my 23 years as a member of the Indpls. Police Motorcycle Drill Team, my fondest memories are those from the Blossomtime Festival. With my father as Chief of IPD, Joe McAtee, I remember hanging out with the guys on the Drill Team and thinking how cool it would be to do what they do. The best stories they had to tell were always ones with their pals up in Michigan with the Blossomtime Parade. After joining the Drill Team in 1983, I couldn’t wait to perform in the Blossomtime Parade. I must say the first time I did, I was so nervous I was sure I would fall over. We were leading the parade and it wasn’t an option to make a mistake.In 2005, I performed for the 22nd time in the parade and I can tell you the butterflies still get me until the parade starts. It is and has always been my personal highlight of the Drill Team season. If you watch close, you may even see me blow a few kisses to certain ladies on the reviewing stand as we pass :). Even with all the great parade memories, rain or shine, I cherish the great friends I have met over the years the most. Andy, Don J., Kim, Gertie, Bonnie, Don & Judy, Bob & Cathy, Anna, and of course my best pal, Bob Braamse. The Blossomtime Festival truly holds a special place in my heart. Thank you for letting me be part of it all these years and thank you for the memories.
Sgt. Bret McAtee, Drill Team Commander

I’m a Sophomore at Benton Harbor High School, Home of TMB (Tiger Marching Band)! Who always keeps the Grand Floral Parade wild ! I have been in the Blossomtime Parade for 6 years, and there’s nothing like it. It’s a great time for everyone in Southwest Michigan to come out and enjoy the festivities, and I would like to say keep them coming. And I’m proud to say Congratulations to Miss Benton Harbor 2006 Dawntayia Sims!!!
Herman Brooks III, Benton Harbor MI

As former Commander of the Indianapolis Police Motorcycle Drill Team and/or riding member from 1975 until I retired in January 2005, I had the privilege of attending and participating in 30 Blossomtime Festival parades and regardless of either good or inclement weather, the staff of the Festival and the people of Benton Harbor/St. Joe came out and welcomed us and showed their support and enthusiasm for the parade and also the Drill Team. Many wonderful times were had, but the best memories are those of the people met and friends made (and kept to this day) while attending not only the parade but also the many functions associated with the parade. None of this would have been possible without the excellent leadership of my friend, Bob Braamse. Thanks Blossomtime for the “good ride” and thanks also to Helen for the Blueberry pancakes!
Lt. James F. Taylor, Former Commander of the Indianapolis Police Motorcycle Drill Team

My whole family would go from Sodus to my aunt’s house near the parade route in St. Joe to walk to the parade. In grade school, I participated in the Youth Parade with classmates.
When I was a high school senior, I ran for Miss Sodus with seven other contestants. The big thing for me was to try to keep smiling when on stage. I was eliminated in the first round. When the contestants went back out, the judges said there had been a mistake and they wanted me back on stage. There was no trouble smiling after that and eventually I was crowned “Miss Sodus”. For a small town girl, the Miss Blossomtime contest, the Key to the Cities tour, the Parade, and the Grand Floral Ball were very exciting. But along with the excitement came growing confidence and poise. I learned that I could survive getting on stage, could appear and speak before the public — valuable things for a young person to learn.
Years later, I volunteered for the Central Queens Committee and had the pleasure of associating with many dedicated local community volunteers and queens. I witnessed over and over the same growth in community contestants that I had experienced. I believe every local community contestant becomes more poised and confident through just the experience of competing in a pageant, whether she becomes Queen or not. Every contestant is a winner and this growth stays with her all of her life!
The Blossomtime experience has benefited many thousands of people in SW Michigan in the past 100 years!
Linda Orlaske Heil, Miss Sodus 1959

Anna & Bob, Thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. I enjoyed listening to your Blossomtime Stories and learning more about the heart of the festival – the people behind the scenes.
I walked away with more than a story for LAKE Magazine, but a deeper appreciation for this wonderful community event. Thank you again and best of luck for your 100Th Anniversary.
Dawn Williams, St. Joseph MI

As the 100th year of festivities grow near, I have had many
thoughts come to mind. The friendships I made while I was
honored to be Miss Blossomtime 1995, the Indianapolis 500
festivities as a VIP, time spent with Anna, Gretchen and
Heidi, Bob and many more. I miss the yearly pictures and
articles on the news and in the papers, but I am always
informed when I check out the website. I am honored to sit
here at this computer and think that I was a part of that
wonderful history, and will be forever. Thank you so much for making Blossomtime what it is!
Meagan Pullar Pyle, Miss Blossomtime 1995; Hoopeston, IL

I truly treasure the memories of visiting St. Joe and the Blossomtime Festival whether it was with the Indianapolis Police Motorcycle Drill Team, as Float Judge, or as a Judge for Mr. Blossomtime. The quality of volunteers, the spirit of the community, and the pageantry of the events.Most of all I have made friendships that I cherish forever. Thank you Blossomtime.
James E Campbell, Former Deputy Chief Indianapolis Police Department

In 1961,the Fairplain schools had a contest to have the children’s art classes design a float for the Kiddies Parade. I was in Mrs. Shepply’s third grade art class and came up with a design that featured the standing profile of the State of Michigan, with its State bird, State flower and blossoms around it. From all her art classes at Fairplain East she took my design along with other designs from the higher grades (through the 6th grade)and submitted them to the contest chair for Fairplain elementary schools. Whatever took place afterwards is beyond my imagination, but, my design survived all the cuts and ended up as their choice of designs. I do not remember who constructed the float, but I have several snap shots of it. The float went on to win in the Kiddies Parade float judging and was placed in the Grand Floral Parade. I was then 10 years of age and I believe,historically, that was also the last year that the famous House of David artisan, Frank Rosetta, entered his designs and constructions into the Grand Floral Parade (though the House of David continued a number of years afterward with submissions without his direction). My very favorite marching unit was the kilted bagpipes and drums from Notre Dame………WOW what a stirring and striking presence they were !!!!!!!!! Colors and hypnotic cadence that just lifted you to admiration and complete attention. My favorite float was the 1956 House of David entry that stole the show with live flowers and live fruit trees in bloom; although Frank Rosetta’s 1939 was awesome as well (my judgment is without prejudice, oh course). Another thrilling high light was the Grand Floral Parade opener with the United States Navy Blue Angels squadron; we watched them from the top of Mary’s Hotel… what a sight and what a prestigious kick-off !!!
Looking back at the Queens, those I’ve known and those before my time, I would want to meet the 1933 Miss Blossomtime from Berrien Springs, the 1940 Miss Blossomtime from South Haven, the 1953 Miss Blossomtime from Benton Harbor; and I have come to know Miss Blossomtime for 2004, Miss Benton Harbor, Brittany Brown, who was certainly well chosen as a regal personality, but also a lovely young lady of humility, manners and presence.
And of course my favorite high school marching band (completely without prejudice) was my own classy Benton Harbor Class of 1969, Tiger Marching Band. HUZZA!!!!!!!!!
I hope the entire SW Michigan region will get on board to make this a most memorable Blossomtime Festival year, it certainly has maintained its integrity over a Century promoting our agriculture, youth and prosperity through the obvious blessings of the Divine.
Call Blossomtime and ask what you can do to help this be the year of years and the threshold of a Second Century.
Ron Taylor, Mary’s City of David

Not only was the 2005 Blossomtime Festival my first in attendance, it was also my first riding performance as a Motorcycle Drill Team member. So needless to say, every nerve in my body was shot! That is until I met Bob and the many other smiling faces of the Blossomtime Festival communities. The kindness received by all, far exceeded my expectations and rose above those received from other communities where we had performed. For all your kindness and support, for me and the Drill Team, the Blossomtime Festival will be a memory that I will keep even after my motorcycle riding days are over. I am looking forward to the new memories and friendships gained at this years Festival.
Officer Todd Arnold, Indianapolis Police Department

My memories from Blossomtime are many and span my whole life. They start from the time I was a very small child, watching the parade with my parents from the old K-mart or Sears parking lot in Benton Harbor. I will never forget how scared I would get when the Shriners would come around with their swords. I also remember getting out of school just a little bit early to go and see many of the Kiddie parades. As I began to get older, I began to march in the parades with the Lakeshore Marching Bands, so watching the parade had to be done by video tape. My first taste of the Blossomtime queen pageant system came when I went out for the Miss Baroda contest in 1993. I will never forget this event as it taught me many things that I use in the everyday life. I had the pleasure of working behind the pageant scene from 1999 until 2003 as the chairperson for Miss Baroda. This was one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. I still keep in touch with many of the girls that were on my courts during those years. Now, I am sharing the Blossomtime pageants and Parades with my daughter Emma who is 3. She loves to watch the parade as she knows that her Dad is coming on his Mini Bike with Shriners. Also she loves to see the queens and dream of the day she too will wear a big crown. I can not say enough about Miss Blossomtime 2005, Kaylee Magro, she has taken a great deal of time to speak and take pictures with my daughter over the last year. We are also looking forward to sharing many more memories of Blossomtime with our twins that are coming in March!!!
Kim Rospierski Schmidt, Bridgman MI

The Blossomtime Festival has touched our entire family in so many ways over the years. Nick and I grew up watching all the Blossomtime Festival Parades when they restarted after the war. My Dad worked at New Products Corp. for 30 years up to 1965 and I remember him helping with their parade floats. I remember how The House of David won the Parade Grand Sweepstakes Award for so many years in a row that they finally dropped out so someone else would have a chance to win. That started the great rivalry between Whirlpool, New Products, VM- Corp., and Clark Equipment Co. After we were married, Nick worked at Clark Equipment and helped with many of their huge floats. Our son Mark marched in the parade with both the Lakeshore Junior High and High School bands. And our daughter Pam, who was Miss Baroda of 1977, got to ride the Baroda float that year. We became actively involved with the Baroda Blossomtime Committee to show our appreciation for all they, and Blossomtime, had done for our daughter. The experiences she had with the Festival and all the wonderful people she met helped to develop her from a typical teenager into a well rounded young woman. We enjoyed our experience so much that we continued to serve the Festival where ever we could for the next 17 years until we retired in 1994 and moved south. As Bob Braamse said its the people who make this Festival so special and we too cherish the friendships we made. Congratulations BLOSSOMTIME may you continue to touch the lives of thousands more for many years to come!
Susan Youdell, Past President

I doubt that Alva had much of a clue as to what he was starting in 1963 and certainly none of that would have really rooted without your long and lasting support of the Drill Team. It was for sure love at first sight between Benton Harbor and the Motorcycle Drill Team. I began my association with the Drill Team and Benton Harbor in 1968 as a riding member and had many many subsequent trips throughout the years. I often reflect on those great times as I look back on my very successful career with the Indianapolis Police Department that spanned 34 years.
The past seven years with National City Bank have been rewarding but certainly can never replace my career in Law Enforcement and the associations that have lasted will beyond my dreams.
Paul Annee, Former Chief of Police 1986-1991; Indianapolis, IN

The thought of Blossomtime makes my heart sing! I have so many wonderful memories of Blossomtime that I could probably fill several volumes. The nearest and dearest memories are the family times we have shared at Blossomtime. Starting with my own childhood and the memories of my Mother and Dad staking out their favorite spot for the family to gather to watch the Grand Floral Parade. Sometimes that spot would be reserved for a full day before the start of the parade. My brother Don and I would arrive at the parade site very early and many of our relatives and friends would also join us. The next generation came along, my children and they looked forward to all the fun things to do during Blossomtime. And what better thing can a grandparent do than take their grandchildren to a parade? Oh how we love to watch the expressions on their sweet faces as they participate in the fun activities.
From 1971 thru 1984 it was my privilege to serve as the Executive Director of the Blossomtime Festival. What a fun time! It was both interesting and challenging. The best part was meeting so many wonderful people from southwestern Michigan and all around the world as well. My greatest thrill was my annual ride through the parade route just before the start of the Grand Floral Parade. It was unbelievable how exciting it was to see so many happy people anxiously awaiting the first unit in the parade. I will say that there was a lot of work to be done. It seemed that my work day had some very long ours but I was very fortunate that Don Humphrey (former President of the Blossomtime Board of Directors) and Leo Isaac (Blossomtime Manager) hired me to work as the first full-time Executive Director.
My husband Dick and I were married at Tree-Mendous Fruit Farm in Eau Claire (site where the Blessing of the Blossoms was held) April 13, 1976. We were both in the SPRING business. He was President and co-owner of the Dowsett Spring Company and I, of course, worked at Blossomtime. Dick was Chairman of the Miss Dowagiac contest for three years and we were just meant to fall in love and marry.
And now we have been asked to co-chair the committee to direct the Blossomtime “100th” Celebration. We invite everyone to join with us as we celebrate this wonderful festival.
Phyllis Taylor Dowsett

In 1962 I met a gentleman who had recently moved to Benton Harbor from Indianapolis, IN. He had previously worked for Governor Matthew Welch of Indiana who was first elected in 4960, the same year John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States. His name was Alva Brewer. It had been his job to arrange the Indiana Delegation for the January 1961 Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C.
He had arranged for the Indianapolis Police Motorcycle Drill Team as one of the units to represent the state of Indiana in that parade. Once I knew of Alva’s promotional talents I soon had him on the parade committee, and in 1963 my first year as parade chairman, together we arranged for Blossomtime to host the drill team for the first time. Alva was transferred the very next year and experienced many more transfers by his company over the years, but returned for extended parade weekends numerous times from cities such as Peoria, IL, Nashville, TN, Phoenix, AZ, and after his retirement he even came back from Mexico, only these times he came for the entire Blossomtime Festival week.
The drill team has now ridden in three Inaugural Parades in Washington, and have led the Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade 42 times. Our 100th anniversary parade will mark their 43rd appearance. Alva has since passed away, but there has not been a single year when those Harley Cycles’ distinctive sounding engines come alive and those red and blue strobes flash into the faces of the crowd at the starting line, which signifies the start of the parade, that I don’t think of my very good friend Alva, and how grateful I am to him for making it possible for me to have so many special friends from Indianapolis.
It was the Blossomtime Festival that led me to such great friends.
Bob Braamse, 2006 Parade Chairman

As Blossomtime celebrates its 100th year it causes me to reflect on my almost 48 years as a Blossomtime Festival Volunteer. I will probably share many more memories over the next few months, but my first, and most important memory is the people.
My involvement with the festival has given me the privilege of meeting hundreds of people from all over the country, not just Southwestern Michigan. Many of these same people have become my very close friends. Our mutual admiration for the Blossomtime Festival is something we will always cherish.
Bob Braamse, Board Member & Past President

My first experience with Blossomtime was a couple of years ago when I was asked to judge the Miss Blossomtime pageant. I was overwhelmed at the quality of the young people who represented their communities so well. I said it in a newspaper article, and I’ll say it again; the students involved in the Blossomtime royalty program are shining examples of their generation. And, I think the volunteers who devote so much time to this program should be applauded for creating an atmosphere where the young people can shine.
Keep it up for another 100 years! 🙂
Rachel Bunner, National Cherry Festival; Traverse City, MI

I remember watching the Blossom Parade with my parents when I was around four or five. Mom would wrap a huge blanket around me and put me between the hood and fender of our car, which was an area large enough to use as a bed! The Mummers also got my attention big time! I also recall the “Fun Parade”. It was so impressive to see a parade at night with crazy people running around! And then I recall listening to the Miss Blossomtime Queen Contest on the radio with my Mom while tracking who was still in with the newspaper photos! I never dreamed that I could be a part of such wonderful events!
Kim Fowler, 2nd Vice-President Blossomtime Board of Director

I have many memories of Blossomtime .. growing up in a home with a single parent (mother) money was very tight and I remember walking to the parade as a little girl and it being one of the highlights of my years. As I grew older, got married, had children, they also looked forward to the parade every year from little on. My son also marched in the parade w/the Lakeshore Band. For a few years I worked in the office at Blossomtime and you then see all the work involved in putting on the Miss Blossomtime Pageant and the Parade and you get a new perspective on the festival .. so much work goes on that the normal outsider does not have a clue. I hope Blossomtime stays around for another 100 years ..
Bonnie Tiefenbach

My fondest memories of Blossomtime are all of the times on the tours as Miss Baroda 1999. I will never forget how much my experience as queen taught me. For the memories and the experiences, I am truly grateful to the Central Queens Committee, namely Anna, Heidi, Lori, Greg, and Gretchen, for the once in a lifetime opportunity!
Amber Zielke (Wall); Miss Baroda 1999

Hello. It’s me! 🙂 Raija Woods, Miss Benton Harbor and contestant number twenty one. 🙂 I just wanted to say thank you all for everything, It is truly appreciated by myself and the other community queens I’m sure. From the food to the smiles to the advice and make up tips I’ll never forget this experience! The stage was beautiful and the show went well. I am so proud to have been a part of this. Thank you all so much!!

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