Friday, January 8, 2010

Idyllwild grows a new festival

Once a village of numerous festivals, Idyllwild is growing another — the Lemon Lily Festival, to be held in Idyllwild Friday July 16 through Sunday July 18, 2010.

The idea of U.S. Forest Service botanist Kate Kramer, the festival’s stated purpose is to provide education about, celebrate and restore what was once a major Idyllwild tourist attraction — the Lemon Lily (Lilium parryii) named in honor of Dr. Charles C. Parry, a renowned British-American botanist who was among the first to collect it in the summer of 1876.

Many thousands used to grow on the Hill along perennial streams and in wet meadows, canyon bottoms, seeps, and springs at elevations between four to nine thousand feet. A striking plant that can grow to over five feet with up to thirty flowers on a stalk, it is known for its strong lemon vanilla scent.

Owing to over zealous bulb collectors in the early 20th century, and to environmental changes (less water, taller trees, and more shade), the once populous local lily declined dramatically until the present time when it is largely unknown to most Idyllwild residents.

At a 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 7 meeting at the Idyllwild Nature Center held to introduce the festival concept to the community, Idyllwild Business Roundtable (IBRT) member Bryan Tallent, speaking on behalf of an already formidable committee that includes representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the Idyllwild Garden Club, The Friends of the Mount San Jacinto County Parks, IBRT, and a professional events planner, said the festival will be an annual event designed to bring the Lemon Lily back to what it once was. He said organizers hope to generate funds and enthusiasm for propagation and planting of the Lemon Lily, create public enthusiasm for visiting the Hill to see it in bloom and for visitors and residents alike to become stewards of its restoration, growth, and continued survival. “I can’t imagine that anyone in Idyllwild who is civic minded would not want to be involved,” he said, “even if you just want to plant lily bulbs. The festival is not about making money, it’s about planting lilies.”

Committee member, pharmacist, and self-styled naturalist and amateur botanist, Dave Stith outlined how community members can “Adopt a Lily,” by purchasing bulbs which volunteers will take to scouted locations and plant, as part of the propagation program. Last summer, Stith counted 2,662 Lemon Lilies on Willow and Tahquitz creeks from the end of July through September. Stith accompanied Dr. Tom Chester, self-taught botanist, astrophysicist and renaissance man on the search along Tahquitz and Willow Creeks. Chester, whose website, contains a wealth of information about plants to be found along our local mountain trails, estimates that at its height, prior to removal of bulbs and weather condition changes, the Hill hosted over 33,000 Lemon Lilies.

The festival will have a major educational outreach component — to teach local and visiting children the importance of conservation and stewardship of prized natural resources. And organizers intend it to be fun for children, with festival events that are designed to be family friendly, with children at the center of the 3-day party.

IBRT member and lily festival website manager Doug Yagaloff asks those interested to visit the site and sign up to receive a regular newsletter about festival developments, schedule, volunteer and sponsor opportunities. “I’m hoping the newsletter has 1,000 people signed up by beginning of spring,” said Yagaloff. “Our intent is to have a great presence at every event leading up to the festival. We’ll have posters up at both venues of the Idyllwild [International Festival of Cinema] film festival, and representation at all festivals prior to July 16.

Although event planning is just beginning, what has already been talked about are: an opening evening reception; a juried art show (Lemon Lily inspired art) with awards; organized hikes to see the lily in its natural habitats; a square dance, hoedown and chuckwagon with Dennis Riley of the Oak Glenn Riley Ranch and his late 19th century period costumed players; children’s crafts and face painting; a village wide scavenger hunt for kids; and similar to the Art Walk’s yearly wine glass, this festival will have a yearly Jan Jaspers Fayer custom designed plate that participants can carry to participating businesses to receive treats or little gifts (lemon themed of course).

An ecologically themed, family centric festival with a major education component, that draws on Idyllwild’s past and repopulates the Hill with a once plentiful beautiful and fragrant natural resource, the Lemon Lily ¬— what’s not to like about that?

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