Like Odysseus in the Land of the Lotus-eaters, the heady aroma of Highland Spring's annual Lavender Festival had me ready renounce all my worldly possessions and join the locals in a languid lullaby of Lavandula. As poetic as that sounds, it's hardly an exaggeration. Each June Southern California's largest organic lavender farm fills its vast acreage with live music, arts & crafts, horse-drawn wagon rides, food and beverage vendors, seminars, workshops and an organic marketplace all in celebration of the flowering plant and its many uses.
My personal adoration for lavender dates back to the summer of 1998 when I first became attached to its soft herbal aroma in the gardens of my childhood summer camp on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. My time at camp deserves a post all its own, but for now I'll say it was there I first learned of the power of herbs in cooking, crafts, and body care. Out of all the various of herbal plants we grew in the camp garden, it was lavender that stole the show for me, and especially the fragrant culinary varietals like Munstead, Provence, and Grosso.
So naturally, when I heard that there was an entire lavender festival that takes place in Cherry Valley about an hour from my house, I had to go and take it the sweet scent! The festival took place on June 9-11 & 16-18, 2017 from 10 AM - 5 PM at the Highland Springs Ranch & Inn.
We arrived around 2:00 PM last Saturday which may have been an ill-selected time of day because we got there right at the peak heat of the afternoon which only added to the utterly lackadaisical vibe of the entire afternoon. The parking situation was also quite full, so if I were to go back next year I'd try to get there earlier in the morning.
When we arrived we were rather parched and had to head straight to the Lavender Bar where they were serving up cold beer, champagne cocktails, mojitos, and margaritas all spiked with lavender of course! The men in our group ordered lavender beers and the ladies opted for mojitos but were slightly bummed to notice the cocktails were made from a bottled mix, and not made fresh.
Later in the afternoon, I found a lavender lemonade stand that was serving freshly squeezed juices and tea, so I recommend this as the preferred beverage for the afternoon instead of the cocktails.
We dined on lavender spiced sausages with sauerkraut, and beef brisket sandwiches with lavender caramelized onions on communal picnic tables under the shade (thank god) of ancient oak, olive and pine trees.
The history of the ranch and inn date back to the mid-eighteen hundreds! I really felt like I'd stepped back in time and was delighted to see many festival goers that dressed "on-theme" with lots of wide-brimmed hats, French linen dresses, and strappy espadrilles.
After lunch, we enjoyed shopping in The Organic Galleries, a parade of twelve rustic boutiques showcasing products from the farm. The galleries are housed in these beautiful little historic cottages and each interior has its own themed decor. Here you'll find a honey and beeswax candle shop, a sourdough bread store, a cafe, an olive oil tasting room and a lavender ice cream parlor to name a few.
There were many more activities, workshops, and tours to partake in, but at around 4:00 PM we were completely sun-drunk and floral-dazed, and were content to just meander slowly through the fields and fields of lavender and listen to the gentle buzz of honey bees everywhere.
Admission to this festival was a steal at only $8.00 per person. We a lovely time and I highly recommend putting this fun summer event on your calendar for next year!
SHOP THE POST
San Diego Hat Company Women's Ultrabraid Sun Brim Hat
with Contrast Black Ribbon