QUARTZ HILL — Making its comeback after a four-year hiatus, the 2019 Almond Blossom Festival and Quartz Hill Elementary Pet Parade marched down 50th Street West on Saturday morning to kick off the city’s 70th annual Almond Blossom Festival over the weekend.
This year’s theme of “Looking Back, Moving Forward” recognized the event’s history as well as the revitalization of its sponsor, the Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce.
The festival is still the largest admission-free event of its kind in the Valley, Chamber Secretary Susan Duncan said.
Organizers credit the aid of Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger in securing the parade route down the county road.
“We’ve been wanting to bring back the parade for a long time now,” Duncan said. “Supervisor Barger and her local field deputies made all of this possible.”
In 1950, Jane Pinheiro and Byron Glenn noticed the almond trees blooming in Quartz Hill and thought that a festival should take place during that time. They approached the newly founded Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce and it was decided to institute a festival. At the initial festival there were more than 20,000 almond trees in bloom and more than 30,000 visitors who shared in the event. The Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce has carried this tradition forward the last 70 years.
One of the most beloved traditions of this event has always been the Pet Parade. Frances Lane, a member of one of the Valley’s founding families, remembers her niece and her best friend decorating their pet goat Billy Joe for the parade as the goat followed them along the parade route.
Quartz Hill Elementary, in partnership with the Chamber, has kept this tradition going.
Angela Meyers, resident and volunteer of Quartz Hill Elementary’s Parent Teacher Association, said the school has been helping with the Pet Parade for years.
“They’re excited to bring it back this year,” Meyers said. “It’s my first time out here so I’m excited to see what will come through here.”
Four-legged animals and their owners made their way down the parade path ending at West Avenue L-8.
Three-year-old Bronson Lane, a fifth generation Quartz Hill resident and third generation to participate in the Pet Parade, rode on his pony Princess.
“The Pet Parade is cute,” Quartz Hill resident Kathleen Vaughn said, who was supporting her son walking in the parade.
Betty Ermey, daughter of “Gunny” R. Lee Ermey, acted as the parade’s grand marshal.
R. Lee Ermey, a real-life Marine drill instructor, actor, military ambassador and longtime resident of the Antelope Valley, also was well known for his charitable work in support of the Marine Corps, military programs, veterans and others.
More than 15 entries paraded down the Quartz Hill streets, including fire and patrol vehicles, classic cars and community queens.
Sirens sounded of Quartz Hill’s own Engine and Squad 84, joined by Truck 33 from the city of Lancaster.
The Antelope Valley Regional Car Club drove down the parade route. Its mission is to preserve, enjoy and share the heritage of antique automobiles.
An AV-based nonprofit organization that raises support and awareness for veterans organizations, Bombshell Betty’s, rode with the parade.
The High Desert Cruisers, Gramma Chelle’s Kitchen in a purple food trailer, the Quartz Hill Garden Center and the Quartz Hill Karate Studio all paraded down the street.
Jeff Barton, whose daughter was marching with the Quartz Hill Karate Studio, said the parade is great for the small-town community. “It needs to come back every year,” he said.
Closing the parade was the Queens Courts from Antelope Acres, Rancho Vista, Mojave, Edwards Air Force Base and Quartz Hill.
Palmdale resident Pilar Perez said she was excited for the parade to make its return this year and thinks the community should offer more events like this.
“The community is so small here; the parade is a chance to meet other people and come together,” she said. “We need more involvement, especially for the children, but I really like what I’m seeing here today.”
Chamber Director Beth Martinez said she loves to see that the parade is returning.
Altogether the parade lasted 30 minutes and hopes to grow in the years to come.
“The community support is greatly appreciated,” Martinez said, “We look forward to many more.”
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