Annual lilac festival and Victorian Tea will not continue

Idyllwild became a lilac tourism destination during the years that the late lilac hybridizer Reva Ballreich dedicated her energy and her family’s property to planting, hybridizing, cultivating and eventually displaying more than 887 lilac varietals.

Each spring, Ballreich opened her garden to the public — her gift to the community.

Gary Parton has continued that tradition by hybridizing new lilac varietals on his 1-acre property in Fern Valley. Beginning in 2009, once there were enough mature lilacs in the garden, Parton hosted an annual lilac festival, with docent-guided tours, music and artists.

A popular highlight of the annual festival and garden tour was the Saturday Victorian Tea, presented by the Idyllwild Garden Club. It was a big draw for tourists and locals alike. Unfortunately, it has become too time intensive to continue.

“It had just become too complicated,” said Parton. “It all [the infrastructure work] comes to me in the end. The event permit was expensive and there were issues with parking on Fern Valley Road. Last year, two busses, which were supposed to have had staggered arrival times, arrived at the same time.

“We’ve become too famous for the venue,” Parton said. He suggested the Garden Club turn its focus to supporting Earth Day. “There are other doors to open to be involved in the community.”

Although there is no lilac festival this year, 40 to 50 members of the International Lilac Society will visit Idyllwild in April, in recognition of Ballreichs and Parton’s work in popularizing Idyllwild as a lilac tourist destination.

“People will be coming from all over the world — from Russia, France, Canada and other countries with lilac devotees,” said Parton of the society’s visit. “They’ll arrive here on Saturday, April 21.” Parton said they’d first visit the Idyllwild Library for an introduction to the work the Garden Club has done in planting more than 1,200 lilacs throughout the village business core. Parton will discuss the work of Ballreich, his mentor, his creation of the Alpenglow Garden on his property and the annual lilac festivals.

“They’ll visit lilac collections at the library, the Idyllwild Inn and St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church. Then they’ll come to the garden for a tour, lunch buffet and auction.”

Parton noted that people are flying in specifically to attend the auction on Saturday in order to purchase lilac varietals that are available only in Idyllwild.

“It’s quite an honor,” said Parton of the visit of the International Lilac Society and its acknowledgment of Idyllwild’s history of lilac propagation.

Parton’s Alpenglow Garden is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday during the months of April and May, when lilacs should be at their peak and available for purchase.