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Poppy Fields Give Peak Performance

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Unlike last year, when the guests of honor were almost a no-show, blazing fields of poppies await visitors to the seventh annual California Poppy Festival this weekend in Lancaster.

Orange carpets of the California state flower cover the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, said park officials, who credited persistent cool weather for this year’s bumper crop with perhaps a boost from the torrential rains of the El Nino winter.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 18, 1998 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 18, 1998 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 2 Metro Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Poppy reserve--Because of incorrect information provided to The Times, the seasonal rainfall total for the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was misstated Friday. The total is 22.4 inches.

“I think we are about at the peak right now. It’s perfect timing for the festival,” said Bill Verdery, superintendent of the Mojave Desert State Parks. “It’s turned out to be a very good year, definitely the best in the last three years.”

More than 50,000 people are expected to turn out for this year’s festival, which will be Saturday and Sunday in Lancaster City Park. Free shuttle buses will ferry festival visitors to and from the state reserve, which is 15 miles west of the Antelope Valley Freeway on Lancaster Road.

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After a slow start, the spring poppy season has taken off in recent weeks, with blooms appearing on Antelope Valley hillsides and opening up throughout the approximately 2,000-acre reserve, Verdery said.

“We’ve had more than 32 inches of rain this year, which is the most in the last 10 years,” he said. “But rain is not the only factor, the air temperature and other factors also determine what kind of a season it will be.”

Verdery said that if the weather remains cool, the poppies could bloom well into May.

The family-oriented California Poppy Festival began in 1991 as part of an Earth Day springtime celebration, Lancaster officials said. “Little by little it has evolved into an event that local folks really look forward to every year,” said city spokeswoman Pilar Alcivar. “People come from all over and it’s a good way for us to show off the good things about the Antelope Valley.”

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Included among the festival offerings this year are three entertainment stages, arts and crafts booths, a wildflower photo contest, painting displays, a flower and garden market, food booths, carnival rides and games and even helicopter poppy-viewing flights, organizers said.

Jazz greats Earl Klugh, Stanley Jordan and Stanley Clark will headline the entertainment portion of the festival with Klugh performing on Saturday and Jordan and Clark taking the stage on Sunday.

“The weather has begun to turn and it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Alcivar said. “We’re really looking forward to a nice couple of days.”


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