Lots to celebrate at weekend Wildflower Festival

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Lots to celebrate at weekend Wildflower FestivalEven though local wildflowers are relatively scarce in this dry year, the creative folk of Ridgecrest have put together a colorful and diverse schedule of things to do at the Ridgecrest Desert Wildflower Festival set for April 12-14. Look for events happening in many venues.

A good place to start is at the Maturango Museum, which has held its annual Wildflower Exhibit for many, many years. Actual local wildflowers are collected by trained volunteers and identified by botanists under special permits from the Bureau of Land Management. The wildflowers and other related exhibits will be on display in the museum’s Sylvia Winslow Exhibit Gallery.

On average, 200 species from 43 plant families usually fill the exhibit. This year’s display will be a surprise to all, depending on what’s blooming. The exhibit is designed to provide a perfect venue to learn the names of different flowers you might see blooming right now, as well as a wind-free environment to take close-up photos if you wish.

Also on display will be beautiful wildflower photos played on laptop computers for your viewing enjoyment, and experts will be available to answer your wildflower questions.

The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the festival’s first two days, Friday and Saturday.

While you’re there, check out the exhibits and the store, which will feature special wildflower-themed merchandise. There will be maps and information for self-guided wildflower tours. Step outside, and enjoy the Gladys Merrick Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, the labyrinth and the human sundial.

The museum’s Carroll Evans Observatory will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, with volunteers from the China Lake Astronomical Society on hand to answer questions and help you look through telescopes.

On Sunday at 2:30 p.m. local wildflower expert Kathy LaShure will offer a free illustrated presentation, “The Thrill of the Hunt: Two Seasons of Rare Plant Treasure Hunts.”

Caravans in your own vehicles to view wildflowers will assemble at the museum, to depart at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday and 10:15 a.m. on Sunday. Please get there early so there is time to form up.

Trailhead hikes on Saturday and Sunday in Short Canyon will be led by volunteers. Directions are available at all festival venues. Start times are 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. See www.ridgecrestdesertwildflowerfestival.com for up-to-date information.

When you finish at the museum, walk across the street to the Ridgecrest Branch Library and browse the annual Spring Book Sale, open to all and run by the Friends of the Library to benefit the library.

Events will also be happening at the Historic USO Building, the Kerr McGee Center, the China Lake Navy Museum, the Desert Empire Fairgrounds and the Balsam Street area.

The Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert at the USO Building will feature wildflower photos by local photographers. The Ridgecrest Geocaching Club will also have a display. There are 750 geocaches within 10 miles of Ridgecrest. The Ridgecrest Geocachers will host WildGeo3, which is open to the public and will kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday with a presentation, raffle, door prizes and refreshments.

Other events at the USO Building include local subject-matter experts giving the following presentations: Saturday, 9 a.m., “All About Geocaching”; 10 a.m., “Photographing Wildflowers”; 11 a.m., “Identifying Wildflowers,“; 1 p.m., “Birds and Bird Calls of the IWV”; 2 p.m., “Petroglyphs of the Cosos”; 3 p.m., “Wildflowers of the High Desert”

The HSUMD will offer lunch featuring the classic pulled-pork sandwiches and other favorite family foods. More such items will be offered at 5 p.m. just in time for families to enjoy a classic family movie and cartoons starting at 6 p.m.

Presentations will start again on Sunday at 9 a.m. with “Secrets and Magic of Digital Photography”; 10 a.m., “Spectacular Nearby Points of Interest”; 11 a.m., “Natural History of Kern County”; and 1 p.m., “People and Rock Art of the IWV.”

HSUMD will serve food and drinks every day. For more information, see wwww.HSUMD.org.

The Kerr McGee Center will host the annual Wildflower Festival Bazaar on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Organizers invite you to come see the flowering of creativity our wonderful local artists have to show you. On Saturday and Sunday, at 1 p.m., Cheryl McDonald will hold a free watercolor workshop. (Limited space is available, so sign up in the morning each day at her booth in the lobby.)

In the Balsam Street area, check out the nifty shops for the fun and unusual.

The Desert Empire Fair joins the fun this year with a a food, beer and wine-tasting event on Saturday from 6-10 p.m. Entertainment will be by Theresa Spanke, Amarillo and Daniel Brown. Tickets, at $30 per person or $50 per couple, are available at the DEF office, Red Rock Books, RACVB and the Historic USO Gift Shop.

Visit www.desertempirefair.com for more information on events at the fairgrounds throughout the wildflower festival.

The China Lake Museum will have docent-guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For easy access, pick up forms at the Kerr McGee Center, Maturango Museum or the Historic USO Building. Fill out your form and give it to the guard at China Lake’s Main Gate. See www.chinalakemuseum.org.

Other area sights include Red Rock Canyon State Park and Randsburg. You may also enjoy antique shopping in Inyokern.

Story First Published: 2013-04-10