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Power to the Poppies

Annual Lancaster festival has blossomed to include full range of food, crafts, rides--and yes, wildflowers. Lots of them.


Viewing the annual poppy bloom in the springtime has evolved into something more than a Sunday drive through the desert to see fields of golden wildflowers blanketing the hillsides.

It's grown to include a weekend in Lancaster City Park called the California Poppy Festival, which celebrates its eighth anniversary this weekend, featuring carnival rides, arts and crafts sales and food booths.

Although this winter's dry weather means fewer poppies in bloom, festival organizers promise plenty of wildflowers anyway.

"Working around the possibility of a sparse bloom this year, we decided to bring poppies right into the park," said Stephanie Weiss, a member of the festival committee.

They'll bring poppies to the people with a new Poppy Pavilion that includes displays of California's official flower and other native wildflowers. For those who want a bird's-eye view of flowers dotting the landscape, short helicopter rides will be available for $15.

Spectators will also be able to view a "cactus ranch" with hundreds of drought-tolerant plants for sale from $2 to $4 a pop. A flower garden and market will sell fresh flowers, bedding plants and small trees.

Maps of popular poppy-viewing sites will be available for those who want to venture out on their own.

There will also be carnival rides and food booths throughout the park, not to mention a full schedule of entertainers.

"The festival matured this year into a major entertainment event," Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts said.

Guitarist Kevin Eubanks, band leader for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," will perform Sunday afternoon. Others scheduled to perform through the weekend include the Chris Ho Band, trumpeter Rick Braun, and Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest.

Andean Nation will play music from South America Saturday using pre-Columbian instruments on the Desert Oasis Garden Stage. Sunday, the group will provide "strolling entertainment" throughout the park.

To reach the festival, take Highway 14 east and exit at Avenue K or Avenue L. Drive east, following road signs to the festival. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Parking is $2. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 6-12 and seniors 62 and older. Kids 5 and under are free. For more information, call (805) 723-6077.

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