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Grand Marshal Announced for Apple Butter Parade!

Have you heard the news? We are THRILLED to announce that the grand marshals for the 47th Annual Apple Butter Festival parade are … *drumroll please* ... Empire Cheer! In just five years this local group has gone from one team practicing in a church, to five teams with over 60 first place banners and 18 national titles in their own practice facility. Read on to find out why festival organizers knew that Empire Cheer was the right choice to embody the theme of this year’s parade: All Together Now. The Apple Butter Festival makes its triumphant return October 8-9, 2022 and kicks off with the parade on Saturday morning at 9am. Empire Cheer will also be performing in the park at 1:30pm on Saturday. Parade applications are available for organizations or individuals to sign up at the Chamber of Commerce office, or on the Apple Butter page of this website.

The Empire Cheer Story:

In 2017, we opened our proverbial doors to seventeen young girls with big dreams and a lot of passion.

We practiced in a church facility called “The Blue” on Fearnow Rd with just a few mismatched mats and limited space. Every Friday, our athletes drove to Hagerstown to practice on a spring floor at a gymnastics facility so we could work on spacing and tumbling.

Our first competitive season was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. We lost. A lot. Then, in February of 2018, we attended our very first National event in Ocean City, MD. We encouraged our athletes to focus on “having fun” and not on winning. Winning a national event in your first season is rare and we didn’t want them to be stressed about it, but they had other plans. At their very first ever national event, our athletes earned second place in a tough division. This was the turning point that shaped the future of our program and the rest of our first season. Following that event, we earned a full paid bid to our second and final national event for season 1 in VA Beach. Again, we encouraged our athletes to go and have fun, do their best, and let the cards fall where they may. Again, our athletes had other plans. In 2018, our very first season of competitive cheer, with 17 girls, a church facility, and a dream, Empire Cheer won their very first National title.

By the end of that first season, a member of our community offered us a space to rent. We finally had a building! We spent a great deal of time fundraising and with a little help from our community, we purchased our own mats and eliminated the need to travel out of Berkeley Springs to practice.

In season 2, our number of athletes nearly doubled and we added two more national titles to our resume.

Season 3 came with two more teams for a total of four and another round of national titles. Covid cut season 3 short and we worried about keeping our doors open through the shut down. In that time, several of our gym families reached out asking how they could help because, to them, closing the doors was not an option. Their kids have found a home with us and they were willing to do whatever it took to support the gym through the uncertainty of the global pandemic. In an effort to support our community, we purchased gift cards from local businesses and raffled them off to not only help keep our doors open, but also keep our community businesses open. We offered virtual practice until we could get back to “in person” instruction and held our breath going into a very uncertain season 4.

With many many restrictions still in place, we reopened our facility for our fourth season and we did it! We grew again! We competed a mostly full season with several restrictions in place and accomplished a long sought after goal— sweep a competition. Our athletes traveled to the Kalahari Resort in Poconos for The Finale National Championship and left with our first ever “clean sweep”. All of our competition teams earned first place and went home with jackets! We added five more national titles to our resume in season 4.

Season 5 (2021-2022) brought us our biggest year of growth to date. We added a fifth team for a total of four competitive teams and one exhibition team. By the end of season 5, the Empire athletes earned 23 first places, 6 second places, 4 third places, 10 national titles, and 6 Grand Champion titles making season 5 our most successful season yet! In June, all four of our competitive teams were ranked number 1 in the country for their specific age & level. Our senior team was ranked number 1 in the country across all ages and levels!

Empire proudly holds over 60 first place banners and 18 national titles, but this is not what makes us so successful. Winning is great, the titles are impressive, but what makes us so successful is our heart, dedication, passion, respect, and love not only for our sport, but for our community and our athletes. Our coaches are strictly volunteer and our program is non-profit. Every dime that comes in goes right in to our athletes and making our facility a better place. We don’t turn anyone away and all are welcome to join us.

We have become a safe space for the kids in Morgan County. We have given them something to be proud of and a place to call home. A direct quote from one of our athletes at the end of season 5– “but I found a home in those 4 walls with those 3 coaches and my team. I truly don’t know where I’d be without them. Empire isn’t just a gym, it’s a safe place for many of the girls that cheer there.” And this quote from a parent— “I truly believe you saved my daughter. Empire saved my child’s life and I will be forever grateful.”

Just two quotes of many, but perfectly sums up who we are and what we stand for. We are a competition cheer gym, yes, but first and foremost, we are a family. We are a safe space. We are a home for many kids in Morgan County.

We are honored and humbled to be this year’s Grand Marshal for the Apple Butter Parade. Our athletes have worked incredibly hard to be the best they can be and we believe they deserve recognition for not only their cheer accomplishments, but for their never ending support, compassion, heart, and dedication. We truly believe we have made our small community proud in our five seasons and look forward to many more. Our athletes absolutely love the Apple Butter Parade and have brought great entertainment to all in attendance with our stunts and tumbling. We have earned 3 trophies for Best Action Group and are looking forward to another year of entertaining!

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