Lilac Festival High Fives

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By Patric Hedlund

Perfect weather and a spirit of small-town friendliness combined to create a beautiful Lilac Festival weekend May 19-20. Entertainment was in good supply with excellent bands. Crowd-pleasing aerialists and juggling stiltwalkers were a hit with the children, as were the pony rides and the big inflatable slide and amusements. Artisans with hand-crafted goods demonstrated their talents. ‘Save Fort Tejon’ had a booth, and the Mountain Communities SPCA walked handsome pups wearing “Please Adopt Me” vests. Smiling public servants in booths talked about the national forest surrounding us, wildfire prevention and public safety issues.

Brothers Anthony and Jackson Weiler were thrilled with their new turtles, Cheezer and Stitch. The Bakersfield boys were visiting grandparents Jerry and Karen Schuler who have had a cabin in Pine Mountain for 25 years.

"We love it up here, and we always come to Lilac Festival. We enjoyed seeing In the Wings Dance Studio performing ballet and hip hop…but where was the parade?…We’ve always had a parade…," the Schulars said in unison.

Joleen and Jack Stethem were walking their son’s vizsla. They are also 25-year part-time residents of Pine Mountain (with another home in Filmore). “The booths were fun. We were impressed with the Art and Wine Gallery for lunch. We love it…But what happened to the parade this year?” they asked. Tim Marvel stepped up with memories of helping longtime resident Frankie Sanchez with the festival in the 1990s when skydivers always summoned an eager crowd to start the parade, and helicopter rides were a fixture that made Lilac Festival a regional sensation—until a couple of years ago. “Where was the parade?” Marvel asked.

Festival attendance seemed to be down this year.

Brian Donnelly, a five-year resident, said he returned on Sunday to buy “some more stuff, and listened to some good music. I spoke to the folks I know in town, and there was a general disappointment consensus, regarding the lack of a parade.

“For a unique community such as ours, there should be a community concern for special events, such as the festivals.

“These events represent what should be acknowledged as a culmination of everyone’s hard work: The children from the learning center, the high school, the kid’s in martial arts, the firefighters, the paramedics, the local artisans, the real estate people, the restaurateurs.

“Here’s the message: ‘It’s officially spring! Our weather is officially awesome. Come, travelers, check us out! Maybe come back during a different season? Everybody Wins!’ Get it?” he said.

Donnelly says he is volunteering, right now, to help coordinate the parade committee next year. “I’m in,” Donnelly writes, “Just give me directions.”

Village merchants said they hope the Pine Mountain Club Commercial Property Owners, festival hosts, get the message.

This is part of the May 25, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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