The full slate of events and guests for the 2015 Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival is coming into focus, and it looks like a pretty nice picture. The VIP list for this year’s festival, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, April 23-25, will include a blend of new face and old friends, and the event schedule has a new wrinkle or two.
Representing both a new face and an old friend is the “Gilligan’s Island Connection.” Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on the TV show) is a past honoree and favorite of the festival, with a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame. Dreama Denver is the wife of Bob (Gilligan) Denver. Both ladies will be honored with the Ella Dickey Literacy Award.
There is also a multi-VIP connection at this year’s festival with the popular “Hee Haw” TV show. Lulu Roman, who has, since her “Hee Haw” years, become prominent as a gospel music singer, will be the featured guest at Saturday morning’s 5th Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast. Buck Trent, well-recognized in the music business as a virtuoso on the banjo, both before and after his long run on “Hee Haw,” will receive a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame during the 1 p.m. Friday ceremony.
Mary McDonough and Kami Cotler, sisters Erin and Elizabeth, respectively, on the iconic TV series, “The Waltons,” are return visitors to the festival. They will be joined by Ronnie Claire Edwards, who played Cora Beth Godsey on the show, for a panel discussion following the red-carpet screening of the film “Earl Hamner Storyteller,” which will be shown at the Carl and Glessie Young Community Auditorium Thursday night.
McDonough will also moderate this year’s “Legends of Television” panel discussion Friday morning.
Other past favorites, back for another Cherry Blossom Festival, include Morgan Brittany (“Dallas”) and Maggie Peterson Mancuso (“The Andy Griffith Show”).
In addition to the film premiere, there are several other new features, including a presentation titled “The End of the Civil War - 150 Years Later,” by Bertram Hayes-Davis, great-great-grandson of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and also a decendent of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The “Legends of Television” and “The End of the Civil War” are just two of a wide variety of presentations and panel discussions that dot the festival’s three-day schedule. Others include:
• The Robert and Edith Garst History Convocation — this year moving to Thursday morning, and featuring Jonathan Sandys, great grandson of Winston Churchill.
• “Working for the Commander-in-Chief” — panel, moderated by Heather Berry, part of former Missouri governor John Ashcroft’s communication team;
• “Remembering Laura Ingalls Wilder” — panel of area experts on the author’s life and times;
• Cherry Blossom Tea — hosted by former White House pastry chef (to five presidents) Roland Mesnier;
• “Never Give Up - Churchill’s freedom legacy” — presentation by James Humes, former presidential speechwriter;
• “The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustang” — interview with authors Alan Day and Lynn Wiese Sneyd;
• “Legacy of Walt Disney” — panel, moderated by Morgan Brittany;
• “First Ladies of the United States” — panel, moderated by author Mary Achor.
A tribute to another former Cherry Blossom VIP and good friend of the Marshfield area is a “Celebration of Life Service,” remembering the life of actress Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” who died New Year’s Day of this year.
As do many Cherry Blossom VIPs, one popular event will be making a return after a few years hiatus. The “Little Miss and Mr. Cherry Blossom” contest is returning. It will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Marshfield Community Center. For more information, call 417-413-3437.