Cañon City’s Historic Blossom Festival

By Ashlee Sack
The Blossom Festival officially started in 1938, but the roots of this agricultural celebration in the Royal Gorge Region extend nearly 125 years.
The first recorded ‘Fruit Day’ was held in Cañon City on September 20, 1894. With over 10,000 people in attendance from all over the state, the festival was a multi-faceted experience. Participants could engage in bicycle races, running races, a fireman’s tournaments, lawn tennis tournaments, a parade, tours of the penitentiary, and community dances. Today, many of these same traditions remain. Over the years, blight, hail, frost, and aphids often halted the festivities by stunting the harvest, and eventually, the September festivities ceased altogether.
In the meantime, Cañon City founding family – the DeWeese’s – privately hosted what they called the “Blossom Fete” in May of 1908. For two years, they organized a dance and banquet at their home, which they decorated with fruit blossoms and lilacs. In 1909, Mr. DeWeese was elected the president of the Cañon City Blossoms Association, and in 1910, a public carnival was added to the DeWeese’s celebration. The Blossom Festival was born.
In 1911, two parades were held – one for children and one for adults. An illuminated auto parade was held 8:00 p.m. In 2018, the Blossom Queen and her attendants will still ride on a decorated float in the annual parade. Local groups, classic cars, and historic farm equipment still continue the century-old community tradition.
The town added an official musical component in 1923 as the week of May 14th was designated “Music Week”, featuring local musicians and choruses. That particular year, however, was riddled with rain showers. Finally, in 1939, the two parallel festivals joined forces and became the “Blossom-Music Festival” and held a bevy of events within the span of one week. Since that time, the emphasis on blossoms and the ensuing crops has waned, but the band competition, parade, 5K/Half-marathon races, Blossom Pageant, Royal Gorge Rodeo, and parade have become favorites of locals and visitors alike. Today, the festival is widely known as the Cañon City Music & Blossom Festival. Hundreds participate in the various activities and celebrate the beginning of summer in the Arkansas River valley. White and pink blossoms still adorn trees scattered throughout the city.
by Ashlee Sack

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