Gary Parton presented his ideas for an Idyllwild Lilac Festival to the Garden Club at its May 6 meeting. Parton is devoted to establishing Idyllwild as the lilac center of Southern California and the festival would be a celebration of lilacs.
Over the past four years, he has organized the planting of more than 1,000 lilac saplings throughout town, especially in the Village Center area — Idyllwild Inn and Jo’An’s.
His concept for the Lilac Festival is expansive, too. Beginning next May, he envisions a two- or three-week event, not the typical one weekend excitement.
“Building a community spirit is what will happen out of this venture,” he suggested. “It will make Idyllwild a May floral destination.”
Parton has done his research and found many lilac festivals throughout the U.S., mostly in the East, and a few have origins more than 100 years ago. Each is different, but each offers ideas of what events can be organized and held during the festival.
Examples include judged shows for individual lilac hybrids or lilac arrangements. Lilac walks from the garden at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society to the Idyllwild Library would pass many different varieties, each of which could be discussed, Parton said.
Another judged show might feature lilacs for the gourmet. “They are edible,” he said with a smile. “Lilac desserts or lilac salads would be created.”
Other possibilities include school-oriented activities such as botany or writing, and parties or a barbecue at his Alpenglow Lilac Garden.
Parton is the third in an Idyllwild lineage of lilac devotees and propagators. Ron (Tommy) Emanuel, the “Lilac King,” was first. Then Reva Ballreich, the “Lilac Lady,” whose May opening of her lilac garden drew crowds from on and off the Hill, was Parton’s lilac mentor.
Ballreich eventually served as president of the International Lilac Society. She also developed several lilac varieties here, including the “Idyllwild.”
Parton is hosting a 2015 Idyllwild Lilac Festival Committee meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 17. Volunteers and interested participants are welcome for this first organizing and planning session at 25025 Fern Valley Road.
“What we make of the festival is up to us,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be gigantic. It can be little; we don’t have to conquer the world in the first year.” But he obviously imagines the festival continuing into the future.
A few of the cities and communities hosting lilac festivals are Mackinac Island, Michigan; Rochester, New York; and Spokane, Washington.