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Gardening From Southern California

...Lompoc Flower Festival
by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke

email: geraldb571@aol.com

Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association


June 3, 2007

California’s City of Lompoc was at one time known as the Flower Seed Capital of the World, but times have changed. While a great deal of seed, both flower and vegetable is still grown there, American and other seed growers now produce much of the seed we plant offshore, in such far away places as Indonesia, South America, Mexico and other good growing climates.

But one thing has not changed in Lompoc and that’s the Annual Lompoc Valley Flower Festival, a big thing in a small town, with more than enough activities, things to see and things to do, to warrant a trip to this beautiful little valley. Lompoc (pronounced lom-poke, and many of the talking heads on TV in LA get it wrong) is a three hour plus drive from most of the inland area, up Highway 101 north, then off onto Highway 1 and through some of the most scenic country in California.

Quaint Highway 1, as in many other places where it lies in California, on the way to Lompoc takes you through endless acres of farm and ranch land, big ranches with cattle grazing on the hillsides, smaller level fields growing cool weather vegetables, and still some fields growing crops for seed, as well as big fields of colorful flowers being produced for the cut flower market.

The flower festival is a five day event, starting on June 20 and running until June 24 this year, and features a parade, food booths offering everything from full dinners through a long list of ethnic food including lumpia, jambalaya, kabobs, tacos and quesadillas. The Flower Show, put on now for the 85th year by the Alpha Literary and Improvement Club of Lompoc, is open Saturday, June 23 from noon to six p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to four p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Bldg. at the south end of H Street. And there’s always a carnival, the delight of children and adults too. If you’re into art you’ll find it on the sides of many downtown buildings—murals done by locals mostly depicting Lompoc’s past, and the Lompoc Valley Art Association will have a display by over 100 artists on June 23 and 24, with paintings and other artwork available for sale.

Daytime entertainment is always family style and evening entertainment is aimed more at adults, with dancing, music and singing. And everywhere you’ll see the festival mascot, “Awexa”, Chumash for bee, on the yellow jackets of volunteers throughout the festival.

Flower fields growing for seed are still around, including sweet peas, nasturtiums, marigolds, alyssum and zinnias and can be seen in several places throughout the valley, as well as large fields of flowers grown by cut flower producers.

Lompoc is small enough that you can’t get lost in the city. The main street as you enter off Highway 1 is Ocean Avenue, and Ryon Park, where most of the festivities take place is at the intersection of Ocean and “O” Street. There are numerous motels in Lompoc, and a good RV campground is located just off Highway 246 at Sweeney Road.

When you’ve had a good visit to the Flower Festival there are many other places of interest in the area. Lompoc is the home of Vandenberg Air Force Base, and La Purisima Mission State Park is located northeast of the city. Following Highway 246 east will take you to Solvang, a tourist destination well worth visiting and to the historic Santa Ines Mission is just east of Solvang.

For more information contact the Lompoc Valley Festival Association at P.O. Box 505, Lompoc, CA 93438-0505, phone 805-735-8511, or e-mail at lompocvalle1@verizon.net, or visit their website at www.flowerfestival.org

To get to Lompoc from the south take Highway 101 north toward Santa Barbara. Just past Gaviota exit onto Highway 1 north to Lompoc.

 

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