Thousands make poppy festival a blooming success
Annual event draws record attendance
Just as wildflower enthusiasts look forward to the annual blooming of the California poppy, Antelope Valley residents look forward to the annual California Poppy Festival.
Lancaster City Park, site of the festival, seemed to blossom with more than 400 tents. Named for the California state flower, the festival turned 20 this year and drew people from all across the state.
For many AV residents, the Poppy Festival also represents the informal beginning of spring. The golden flower was present everywhere, from median strips, to road signs, to artwork, even painted on the faces of a few lucky children.
Lancaster is known for having one of the state’s most bountiful yields of poppies. Eighteen miles west of Lancaster City Park lies the world famous Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, where visitors can view a colorful carpet of poppies and other wildflowers lying on the desert floor.
Unfortunately, this year’s display was not as big as was hoped. In fact, it’s been called disappointing by some.
Nearly 30 sponsors helped to make the festival a success. On hand were more than 200 booths of all types arts and crafts imaginable, a children’s area, exotic animals, food vendors, a farmer’s market, a fine-arts museum section, an international stage, flowers, classic cars, and of course, live music and entertainment on several stages. A Taste of Lancaster returned for its second year. The ever-popular aviation/aerospace court returned. The sand carving at the entrance to the festival has become an annual attraction, with guests stopping by to watch its construction or have their picture taken in front of it. One notable change at this year’s festival was the expansion of the carnival section at the northwest end of the park.
Abdul Ding was one of the vendors in the arts and crafts section. Ding, originally from Senegal, is the owner of AfricWay. He sells gifts of all types, including handbags, bracelets, incense, T-shirts, patches and CDs, all Africa-influenced, although many items were from Jamaica. A first-time exhibitor, Ding used to have a store in Palmdale. He now does mostly fairs. Almost every weekend, “I go to different cities, different towns, sometimes different states,” said Ding. His location was in the far corner of the arts and crafts area. Ding admits activity at his booth Saturday “was kind of slow,” but Sunday business was brisk.
Spaced throughout the park grounds this year were a handful of old, upright pianos. Occasionally a child would sit down and bang out a few notes. Aishjay Haire, who is blind, was one of those kids. He treated a gathering crowd to a couple of familiar songs, as his mother looked on.
One of the most popular events was the King of the Jungle celebration on Sunday. The group performed two shows, featuring songs from “The Lion King.” Singers and dancers performed on a stage while two dancers on stilts accompanied them. The performers marched to the stage as music played, while a crowd quickly formed to watch their entrance and show. Spectators whipped out cell phones and cameras to capture the spectacle.
AV residents know that the weather at festival time can be extremely unpredictable. But that didn’t stop visitors by the thousands from enjoying themselves. Reports are that Saturday’s turnout broke attendance records. Rhonda Perez, operations manager for Lancaster Parks, Recreation and Arts Department, confirms that Saturday’s attendance topped 27,000 visitors, the highest Saturday total in the festival’s existence. That maybe due, she says, to “great weather and people just wanting to get out of the house.”
More than 24,000 festival-goers attended on Sunday, bringing the total to 51,000 guests. Even as the Poppy Festival wound down, visitors were still arriving, hoping to catch the last few minutes of this year’s activities.
The legacy of the poppy is often seen as related to war, or the remembrance of it. It is in such a setting that Canadian John McCrae, a lieutenant colonel and surgeon in a British artillery brigade in Belgium during World War I, grieving over the recent burial of a friend, noticed how red poppies sprang up in the war-torn ground near the burial sites. It inspired him to compose the now-famous poem “In Flanders Fields.” It reads:
Applications are still being accepted from arts and crafts artisans who want to be a vender at the 22nd annual California Poppy Festival, to be held April 20 and 21 at Lancaster City Park, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Whether you draw, paint, sculpt, sew, make jewelry, or work with wood, iron or glass, the Poppy Festival is a great place to display your artistic talents while making extra money.
The California Poppy Festival draws approximately 50,000 visitors during the two-day event.
LANCASTER, Calif.—It’s that time of year when California’s favorite flower is in bloom, and that means festival time. The city will host its 20th annual California Poppy Festival on April 16 and 17 at Lancaster City Park.
Mayor R. Rex Parris and several city council members joined city workers to preview a few of the new attractions and consider the expected fanfare at this year’s springtime celebration.
Students to senior citizens are eligible to be volunteer docents at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
Docent opportunities include staffing the visitor center and gift shop, walking the trails, leading tours, and other activities from March through May.
A docent is a volunteer that has attended training for their position. No previous experience or prior knowledge of the habitat or history is required.
On April 20 and 21, Lancaster will host the 22nd Annual California Poppy Festival at Lancaster City Park.
The city is currently accepting applications for the commercial vendor area of the event.
The Poppy Festival is a widely acclaimed event that provides a broad array of entertainment and fun for the entire family. The festival draws more than 45,000 visitors over a two-day period and provides businesses an opportunity to meet with potential new customers through its various vendor areas.