Blossomtime's 114-tradition continues despite pandemic

NOW: Blossomtime’s 114-tradition continues despite pandemic

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The Blossomtime Festival has been an integral part of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties for 114 years.

In 1906, Benton Harbor Reverend W. J. Cady was inspired by southwest Michigan’s unique and growing agriculture industry. Wanting to celebrate this region and bless each year’s harvest, the Blossomtime Festival was born.

Then came the pageants, which have been held through newspaper ballots, on stage, and this year because of the pandemic under a large tent outside.

For years, the annual Miss and Mr. Blossomtime pageants have been held on the Mendel Center stage at Lake Michigan College with thousands of spectators. But when the pandemic shut things down just days before the 2020 competitions, it also forced the cancellation of the entire spring season – leaving organizers wondering if there’d be any Blossomtime this year.

“They didn’t get to go on the Goodwill Tour, nor were they able to go to Shriners Hospitals, and we always go to the state capitol and the Michigan State Police office, then of course the Grand Floral Parade – probably the biggest thing that most of the kids are sad about,” said Blossomtime Festival President Anna Abdelnour.

Blossomtime’s board of directors ultimately decided to roll with the punches and move forward with the tradition – but with a new twist.

“About three weeks ago I’m sitting there thinking about it with some of the members of our board and thinking what if we could do this and it kind of just bloomed – more or less – that we could do it but it would have to be an outdoor event, it would have to be relatively soon because of the weather and knowing that we could only have 100 people maximum,” said Abdelnour.

Despite all the unprecedented challenges, the non-profit has also still managed to give out all of its scholarships – nearly $20,000 each year.

"This is the fabric of southwest Michigan. This is our 114th year of every community coming together and celebrating what agriculture they have at the first of spring and blessing the blossoms to have a rich season ahead of them,” said Abdelnour. “And it’s important not only for the young people, but for the communities.”

Since the festival is already at its 100 person capacity, both pageants will be live-streamed on the their Facebook page starting at 1 p.m. Saturday:

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