Many Antelope Valley residents enjoyed the 69th Almond Blossom Festival in Quartz Hill over the weekend, held from March 9th through March 11th. The free event typically draws 2,000 to 3,000 visitors.
Considered to be the longest-running annual almond blossom festival in America, this unique local festival emphasizes the blooming almond trees of the city’s past. The event also includes the Almond Festival Parade, one of the oldest parades in the Antelope Valley, historically taking place on the first day of the festival.
Before the endless housing tracts that we know today, Quartz Hill housed a myriad of almond trees and orchards. The pink and white blossoms associated with the trees would blanket Quartz Hill in late winter, officially announcing the season's end and the coming of spring. In the 1950s, records indicate that nearly 100,000 trees were covering 2,000 acres of land.
In early 1950, Jane Pinheiro and Byron Glenn proposed the idea of a festival in celebration of the blossoming almond trees to the Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce and, shortly after, the Almond Blossom Festival was instituted.
The Quartz Hill Almond Blossom Festival was first held in 1950 as a two-day event on March 4 and March 5 to celebrate the staple tree. Festivities started with a dance at the Quartz Hill airport hangar on Saturday night, where the first Almond Blossom Queen, Jean Eastman, was crowned. The Antelope Valley Flying Club offered night sightseeing flights over the blooming groves.
The next day began with a breakfast at the Quartz Hill airport, followed by the first Almond Blossom Parade. The parade commenced at noon, marching through downtown Quartz Hill. The Grand Marshall of this first parade was William Stratman, an 88-year-old resident who was among the first to plant almond trees along Portal Ridge in the Quartz Hill district. A BBQ followed the parade, hosted at the Antelope Dude Ranch on Quartz Hill Road, where local growers first introduced their new phase of almond production - the beloved candied almonds!
The 2nd annual Almond Blossom Festival was welcomed by a dusting of snow a week before the event. Despite the questionable weather, the festival still went on. A highlight of this 2nd Almond Blossom Festival was a special event, a search and rescue simulation at the site of a “crashed plane” in the hills. Radioed reports from the “rescue party” were broadcast to the airfield. The 3rd Annual Almond Blossom Festival was also impacted by the weather, postponed by substantial snowfall the night before the event. After postponing for a week, the festival went on even in the face of light snowfall continuing, with locals eager to begin the annual festivities.
The Almond Blossom Festival continued as a two-day event until 1958, when it was first advertised as a three-day fete beginning Friday, March 7, and ending on Sunday, March 9. In 1974 it was extended again, advertised as a four-day event. However, by the 1980s, the Almond Blossom Festival was scaled back and reduced to a three-day event; by this point, most of the trees were already gone, with the festival commemorating the community’s history of almond cultivation.
Although the almond trees have continued to disappear over time, the festival is held each year as a show of community history and pride, celebrating the almond groves that once dominated Quartz Hill.
In addition to the noteworthy parade, other activities such as various crafts, games, carnival rides, car shows, puppet-shows, performances, and live music continue to be highlights of the festival.