Do you ever just take a minute to pause and appreciate how gut-punchingly gorgeous the Central Coast is come springtime? A reference to the old adage about stopping to smell the roses never seemed as appropriate as it was on the sunny Sunday, March 24, when my family pulled into a school parking lot for the third annual Santa Margarita Wildflower Festival, so I made that reference. Made it all over the place, in fact.
- PHOTOS BY NICK POWELL
- WILD ONES : Jill Gallagher and Cheri Roe of the Santa Margarita Historical Society organized the wildflower festival to share the area’s natural beauty with tourists, bring dollars to town, and raise money for remembering history.
Vendors were selling all sorts of delicious-smelling food and neat arts and crafts, but I didn’t have any time (or money) for that jibber-jabber. I was on site for the stars of the show, the flowers themselves, and the festival’s organizer, Jill Gallagher, showed me around, noting that there were 60 native species on display.
Gallagher said the idea for the festival came to her one dreary February morning. The town’s businesses were dead, but visitors were passing through regularly on the scenic route to Carrizo Plain or the North County wine country.
- TREASURE TROVE : Festival organizers handed out maps so participants could search for wildflowers where they’re at their best—in the wild. I found some California poppies and whatever the cuss these neat red flowers are.
“We needed to find a reason to trip them up,” Gallagher said. “We’ve got the wildflowers, so why don’t we share them, teach people about the things they’re here to enjoy?”
The two-day festival is largely an educational affair, with free hourly lectures from nature experts, gardeners, and professional photographers. The Photo Shop of San Luis Obispo even lent macro lenses so amateur photographers could fiddle around with capturing close-ups of colorful petals.
There were roughly 50 or so people in attendance, milling about the booths and admiring the vibrant, natural colors on display, but my family was getting giddy to put Gallagher’s map of flower hot spots to the test and find some wildflowers in the great outdoors, where they belong.
- PAGING MRS. GREEN THUMB : Penny Nyunt posed with her two favorite flowers: wooly blue curls and Lilly (her daughter).
We drove around for nearly an hour, and honestly didn’t see too much in the way of flowers. We found a few, but mostly, we were blown away by the largely untouched green hills and oaks along Pozo Road. We’d never explored the area or even seen Santa Margarita Lake, so that alone was worth the drive.
Was the wildflower festival as wild as the flowers for which it’s named? Not quite. The best word to describe the whole affair was “nice.” The people were nice, the displays were neat, and the lazy drive was nothing but lovely. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon with the family, and ever since, I can’t help but scan the road for little sprinkles of color. It’s almost as if beauty is everywhere if you just take the time to look.
Aw, isn’t that cute? Mr. Sarcastic Art Basher Man learned a heartwarming lesson and had a wholesome day with the family. Well, it was cute, but next week, on Easter no less, I’ll be earning back my street cred in spades, ’cause I’ll be hitting SLO Brew for a show with none other than Ghostface Killah from the notorious Wu Tang Clan! Take that, family values!
Nick Powell dances with flowers in his hair at email@example.com.