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March 10th, 2010 by Temple City Tribune
The Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Wistaria Festival on Sunday, March 14, 2010. The festival first began in the early 20th century, drawing as many as 100,000 people over an extended period of time. Now the vine, which is on private property, is available to the public for viewing only one day a year, this year on the 14th. Last year, the crowd estimate for the single day was 13,000 people.
The Guinness Book of World Records has certified the vine as the world’s largest blossoming plant, and estimates that at its peak, the vine had as many as 1.5 million blooms, weighed 250 tons, and covered more than an acre of ground. The vine is so large that it encompasses the better part of two properties. At one point the vine, which was originally planted in 1894, actually destroyed a structure on one of the properties, which crumbled under its weight.
In addition to the vine viewing, downtown Sierra Madre is transformed into an arts and craft fair for the day, with 150+ artisans and crafters displaying their work at booths on the town’s two main streets, which are closed off to traffic for the day. This compliments well the charming village shops that line the downtown area, offering those in attendance a great opportunity to find just the right gift, that special item for the home décor, or a keepsake to be treasured through the years.
In addition to the shops, the town’s restaurants will be serving the delightful cuisine the town of Sierra Madre has become known for. Since the beginning of outdoor dining in the 1990s, Sierra Madre has been known throughout the valley as a great place to dine al fresco with a spectacular view of the San Gabriel mountains just to the north. There’s something for every taste, with a variety of international flavors at the local eateries, Mexican, Italian, Thai, and California Continental cuisines, several types of American cuisine and even a Sushi spot.
This year, a dozen musical acts will be performing at five outdoor venues. The serenity of the vine is accentuated by the harp performance of Ron Longo and classical guitarist Michael Zubia, both of whom have delighted crowds at the vine on multiple occasions.
Entertainment Chair Tim Tutwiler has pulled together an musical lineup for the downtown area (featuring mostly local musicians) that ranges from solo acoustic guitar and vocals, to blues rock, country rock and more. Downtown stages will feature long-time veterans such as Snotty Scotty and the Hankies, and newer bands (composed of veteran musicians) including Dirty Dave and the Dynamites. Other local favorites are scheduled to appear as well, including Horses on Astroturf, Ocho X, Vin Fiz Flyer, Thelonius Dub and others. One band of locals has re-named itself for the event with a play on a popular group from the sixties, calling themselves ? and the Wistarians. In addition, Brian Casey, morning personality for KOLA 99FM will provide remote broadcasts from a KOLA event booth from 11am to 1pm. A complete entertainment lineup and more information about the festival can be found online by visiting www.WistariaFestival.com.
The downtown festival is free to all who attend. Viewing of the vine is also free of charge, but due to the steep uphill climb to the private properties and limited parking in the vicinity of the vine, it is recommended that you kick back and enjoy a ride in the air-conditioned shuttle buses provided for your comfort. Tickets for the shuttle are $10 round-trip when purchased in advance, and $15 the day of the event. Because the vine is on private property, it is not ADA compliant. Due to the hilly terrain, the site will not accommodate wheelchairs, strollers or people with limited mobility.
Shuttle tickets can be purchased online and printed on your home computer up to and including the day of the event. Visit www.WistariaTickets.com to purchase your tickets.
The event’s host hotel, Doubletree Hotel in Monrovia is offering special discounted rates for those attending the event, as well as round trip shuttle service to and from the hotel. For more information, call (626) 357-1900 and mention the group “Wistaria Festival.”
The Wistaria Festival is sponsored by the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce, with assistance from Festival Sponsor the Arcadia Association of Realtors. Additional sponsorship comes from the Grand Pacific Resorts and Southern California Edison.
Photos by Terry Miller