The Idyllwild Lemon Lily Festival, July 13 and 14, enters its fourth year faced with germination challenges.
Propagating the lily from native seeds is a time-consuming and difficult job that takes years to consummate. Growing the festival itself is no less difficult. Both take a core of dedicated volunteers that expands as the festival grows and adds new features.
This year fewer people have volunteered and only two months remain before the festival weekend. This is a problem for organizers, especially since two new projects were added last year — the banner public art project and free bluegrass concerts. And again this year, the festival will take place in two locations, necessitating more volunteers — in town with bluegrass concerts and local merchant participation, and at the Nature Center with Lemon Lily festivities, art presentations and vendor booths. “We need volunteers now,” said festival steering committee chair Bryan Tallent.
The Lemon Lily festival started in 2010 with the laudable goal of restoring the once abundant native flower to its prepoaching heights of 33,000. So beautiful and so fragrant, the plant, which can grow to five feet with as many as thirty flowers on a stalk, fell victim to poachers in the early years of the 20th century.
In 2009, Idyllwild local and amateur botanist Dave Stith discovered over a 15-day period of surveying from July through October, that lemon lily populations are springing back from dangerously decimated levels and that a festival could bring attention and add urgency to restorative efforts. Former San Jacinto Ranger District botanist Kate Kramer also believed a festival could help educate the public about what our mountains had lost, and foster local propagation efforts.
The festival has proved popular with so-called “flower tourists,” who come to the Hill to enjoy the early Americana entertainments and demonstrations, sample lily-flavored gastronomical delights, frequent local stores offering lemon lily specialties and enjoy the foot-stomping pleasure of the newest festival addition, bluegrass music.
This year there will be bluegrass in town on both Saturday and Sunday. The Bodie Mountain Express headlines the festival and returns from last year. They also headlined festivals in Idyllwild during its bluegrass heydays in the 1970s. Bodie Mountain. Concert organizers plan full days of music, a larger stage, and are hoping to provide some shade structures after a few attendees last year complained of hot sun and no shade. The beer concessionaires and beer drinkers, however did not complain.
Also returning for bluegrass are Jamie Olsen, guitar and vocals; Kathleen Johnson, autoharp and vocals; and Don Reed, dobro and mandolin.
Returning to the Nature Center Americana festivities are The Pennyroyal Players, a talented troupe of five women who through storytelling and song present portraits of people who settled the American West. The players remember the hardships, triumphs and humor that were part of Western pioneer life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The festival, from its first years, has always had a strong American West settler component — recreating a time when the lemon lily grew resplendent in our local mountains.
To assist with the festival, contact Bryan Tallent at [email protected] or by calling 659-5556.