It may sound strange to say follow your nose along Highway 46, but that might take you right to The Lavender Garden and its first-ever Lavender Festival this weekend.
This two-day celebration will offer dozens of vendors, food trucks, live music, lavender pageant, children's activities and, of course, an opportunity to immerse yourself in all things lavender.
This is the first big event for the business, which planted its first lavender in 2017. The gift shop, filled with sachets, hydrosol, essential oils and other lavender products, opened in 2018.
Its location between Bakersfield and the Central Coast along Highway 46 has made the garden a big draw for travelers.
"It's a really busy highway in the Central Valley and we're that halfway stopping point to the coast," said Anna Valdivia, director of land development with The Lavender Garden. "People who have seen us, they stop and want to come back. It's just really relaxing here."
"We have those people who are just stopping by, they want to stretch but we also have people who actually hang out. They walk the fields, shop, have lavender ice cream or lavender lemonade and sit in the courtyard that's shaded."
The farm spans about 40 acres with 6 of those planted with six varieties of lavender — Grosso, Sachet, Provence, Folgate, Royal Velvet and Hidcote — used for products sold in the gift shop. There are 6,000 plants that are close to maturity and another 1,000 that were planted this year. Valdivia said the goal is to add plants each year in new fields.
As the business grew more popular during its summer season, when travel is busiest, plans formed for a festival. Organizers originally scheduled the event for last year but had to delay due to the pandemic.
Now it's full steam ahead for the festival, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday.
There are plenty of activities for the whole family including the Polo Express train, which will offer rides from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. A petting zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. A face painter and balloon artist will also be on hand for the festival.
Those who want to learn more about lavender can sit in on an educational session with Victor Gonzalez from Victor’s Lavender Farm in Sequim, Wash. Gonzalez, a Mexican immigrant, has been growing the plant since the 1990s and opened his own farm with his family in 2004. His talks will be held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days.
Dane Kuntz of local business Kuntz Family Farms will also host sessions at the festival about beekeeping. Kuntz oversees the bees that help pollinate at The Lavender Garden and bees' lavender honey is sold in the gift shop. The bee seminars will take place at noon Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Dane's wife, Holly, also helped out with the festival by organizing businesses to sell at the event. Some vendors scheduled to take part are KJ Stitch (handmade dog accessories and more), Tule Adventure Co. (locally themed stickers and patches), Land & Sea Alchemy (beauty and personal care), Honeywear (women's clothing), Nena's Place (handmade designs), The Chandler Maker (candles), The Vintage Garden (rustic vintage goods), Jezpokili Designs (handmade items and selfie booth), Hello Poppy Handmade (candles, soap and more) and House of Morii (women's clothing).
Live music will be offered both days. Bakersfield pastor and season 19 runner-up for NBC's "The Voice" Jim Ranger will perform Saturday at 6 p.m. La Marcha, which provides high-energy performances of covers and provocative originals, will take the stage at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Also in the spotlight will be those competing in the 2021 Lavender Festival Queen, Junior Queen, and Princess Pageant. Organized by Legacy Productions and Miss Kern County, the event will start at 10 a.m. Saturday with the winners crowned at 1 p.m. The pageant is open to contestants age 2 and up and there is a $25 entry fee. For questions or to enter the pageant, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping everyone fed and happy will be an assortment of food and beverage vendors including KV’S Southern Style BBQ, The Wicked Kitchen (burgers, loaded fries and more), Umaga Coffee (Filipino treats) Mad Aguas (agua frescas), Johnn Boyss (beverages and TikTok pickles, which are wrapped in chamoy and fruit leather), Fifi's Tasty Sweets, Lil Mama Got Cakes (baked goods and drinks), Tony's Snowtime (shaved ice), Bud's Cuts (meat wholesaler) and Vinemark Cellars, which will offer wine tastings. The garden also serves lavender ice cream and lemonade.
Those worried about too much time in the sun can relax since shaded cooling areas will be set up around the farm.
Valdivia said that depending on the response, this will become an annual event to start the summer season.
And for those who can't make it out this weekend, she said the lavender will continue to bloom into August, making the garden a pleasant travel destination.