by William Etling
* Check out the Lompoc photo collection here.
The 57th Annual Lompoc Valley Flower Festival is coming up June 24-28. Even without a festival, Lompoc has a quirky charm all its own. The name is thought to be Chumash for "little lake."
For a little lunch, locals know Sissy's is a great cafe. The Chamber of Commerce across the street has piles of info and things to do. There's art in the alleys (40 murals), fresh produce in the fields, flourishing flowers, and winding rural roads past farms and forests. The Santa Rita Hills east of town have an epic reputation in the wine world, and numerous vintners call Lompoc home.
There's a refreshing lack of pretension in Lompoc, a town where the only gated community is the federal penitentiary.
The San Fernando Region Vintage Chevy Club will be in town May 14-17. Waterwise, a new state-of-the-art indoor aquatic center boasts 3 pools under one roof, with a competition/lap swim pool, zero entry children's play pool with water slides, and a 91 degree therapy pool with a wheelchair ramp and wet wheelchairs for disabled access.
The largest grove of Italian Stone Pines outside of the Mediterranean, planted in 1940 by mistake, shade the Lompoc Museum, built in 1911 as a Carnegie Library. Beattie Park, Ryon Park, and River Park are gracious greenswards. Built in 1876, Artesia School was named after artesian wells found nearby, and was used until 1960. Brisk west winds kept blowing the doors open, so it was turned around to face east.
Return to Freedom is a 300-acre wild horse sanctuary located on the road to Jalama Beach. Home to more than 200 wild horses and burros, the organization is working to protect America's remaining wild horse herds through sanctuary, education and conservation. You can visit from May-October when they host a variety of tours and clinics for the public.
Dedicated readers know that photo galleries of La Purisima Mission and Surf Beach are up already.
William Etling is a 42-year resident of Santa Ynez, and the author of Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley.