WENATCHEE — Jeff Ostenson and Charles Atkinson grew up going to the Apple Blossom Festival — the kiddie parade, the grand parade and the food court.
When the filmmakers, as North 40 Productions, accepted the challenge of creating a feature-length documentary about the festival — a nod to its 100-year community tradition — they thought they were ahead of the game.
“I had no idea about the behind the scenes,” Ostenson said. “I just didn’t realize how much effort and how many volunteers it takes and what a job it is to be royalty.”
All of that and more is explained in “A Lot of Fuss About a Parade” that premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Numerica Performing Arts Center.
The film documents the 99th festival from the 2018 Apple Blossom royalty selection process and festival events to the crowning of the 100th royal court this spring, with tributes to those who started the event and those who have kept it going.
North 40’s team — Ostenson, Atkinson, Steve Scott, Oly Mingo and Chad Yeney — spent 14 months and 2,500 hours pulling it together — shooting 50-plus events, conducting 80 interviews with present and past royalty, volunteers and organizers and sorting through 19 terabytes of data.
Atkinson said the sheer number of events was daunting.
“It was eye opening looking at the calendar that first time. There’s a lot more here than the parade,” he said.
Without a pre-written script, they took a shot-gun approach to filming events, wanting to capture the mundane and the magical.
“We were surprised that some of these things still happen,” Ostenson said. “Who hires an artist to design a float and then spends months making it? Who shows up on parade day every year to tell people they can’t drive down Miller. Someone does that,” he said.
Finding those nuggets was part of the process.
“We didn’t know exactly what this film was going to be because we didn’t know everything,” Ostenson said.
The early temptation was to make a pageant film because it stands out as a throw-back to a different era.
“One of the things I wanted to answer was whether a pageant is relevant in 2019,” he said. “Personally, I went in there with the idea that I was going to try to prove its time was over, but I was converted. The training, the pressure to test them in all these different situations and then what the three royalty go through from selection night in February to the parades, the festival and then marketing Wenatchee to the Northwest — I was blown away by what we ask of them."
In addition to following the 2018 Top 10 candidates and royalty, the film crew interviewed royalty from past years about their experience.
“I think when you’ve spent as much time as we have with former royalty, you see how it changed their life for the better,” Ostenson said.
The filmmakers kept in mind the larger picture.
“Obviously, the pageant is a main storyline in the film, but we wanted it to be about why would you do this for 100 years and will it continue for the next 100 years. The story also has to be about the festival itself,” he said. “We didn’t know at first how we were going to balance that.”
The answer came in connecting to the community tradition that also hearkens back to yesteryear, which also explains the film’s title.
“Somebody said once, ‘It’s a lot of fuss about a parade,’” Wenatchee Downtown Association Executive Director Linda Haglund says in the movie. “But it is a lot of fuss about a parade because it’s a celebration of who we are here and nobody else does it like Apple Blossom. Look how everything has advanced over 100 years and it’s still a parade. That’s pretty cool.”
Audience members in a prescreening said the film left them with a sense of community pride, a few tears and a desire to get involved in this year's festival, April 25-May 5.
Ostenson said that hits the mark.
“I want to plant a seed that they have a desire to at least experience and participate in Apple Blossom,” he said.