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Porterville Iris Festival

Mar 30, 2018 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Back in Bloom

April 2018
By Jordan Venema

AMONG THE 300 SPECIES of iris, its purple bloom is unmistakable. In Greek mythology, Iris was the personification of the rainbow, and the three-petal fleur-de-lis has been synonymous with the former French monarchy since the 12th century. Even the Boy Scouts incorporated the symbol into their logo, perhaps because the flower symbolizes wisdom, since those scouts are always prepared. Historically, the iris rears its petals in many places, but even locally the flower has renown. 

“Until about five years ago, we had an iris farm in Porterville,” says Monte Reyes, president and CEO of the Porterville Chamber of Commerce. “Sutton Iris Farm had been here a very long time, and at some point we made the iris the official city flower.”

The farm ultimately left, but the iris remained central to Porterville, and most prominently during its annual Iris Festival, hosted by the Porterville Chamber of Commerce. This year marks the festival’s 20th anniversary, and according to Reyes, “we’re hoping to make it a bigger and better festival, as we do every year.”

For a town with a population of about 60,000 people, a festival drawing about 10,000 people annually would suggest they’re doing a pretty good job. And while the iris has always been central to the festival, Reyes says they’re doing more to focus on the flower. 

“We’re really looking to make (iris-related) booths more prominent, and one of the biggest things the city of Porterville has done is they’ve updated all the planters in the city so the irises would bloom during the festival,” explains Reyes. 

For those who come to the festival strictly for its namesake, Reyes suggests an early start. 

“Every year, we have people bring their wagons and they do stock up,” he admits. “Those irises tend to go pretty early, so the varieties will be better toward the beginning of the day.” 

In addition to selling different irises, booths will also provide education about the flower, such as when and under what conditions to plant, and when to expect them to bloom.

But more than a festival about a flower, Reyes says the Iris Festival is “a true community event here in Porterville,” which is sponsored by local business ad vendors.

That means festivalgoers can expect food, entertainment, music – you name it.  From caramel corn and lemonade to funnel cake, and barbecued tri-tip to Philly cheesesteaks, there’s going to be “a lot of your festival favorites,” says Reyes.

Delivering on expected growth, the Iris Festival also will offer two stages, one at Centennial Park and the other on Oak Street, with live 

bands, dancers, DJs, even a reptile show.

“E&Ms Reptiles comes out every year, usually in the mornings because the reptiles don’t like the heat, since they’re cold blooded,” says Reyes. “It’s totally kid friendly. He actually gets the kids up there to hold or touch the animals so they can overcome their fear.”

The festival will again host Peddlers Alley, an area for antique collectors that Reyes describes as “a miniature, collectible swap meet.”

“Also the Arts Commission of Porterville will be holding a chalk art competition and exhibit near the park this year. Instead of doing it on the street they’ll be using paper on table tops,” he continues.

But the biggest allure, other than the flowers themselves, is likely going to be this year’s chili cook off.

“We’re looking to make that a bigger part of the festival,” says Reyes, who hopes to see as many as 20 teams compete. “Plus you can check out the booths, the cooking area, get a look at how they’re making that tasty chili.” 

For those interested in trying their hand at cooking chili, and tempting stomachs, Reyes says they will accept contestants into the second week of April. Refer to 

the Porterville Chamber of Commerce’s website for 

more information.

So follow your nose to the irises or your stomach to the chili, because there will be about 100 booths along Porterville’s Main Street, and Reyes says parking won’t be a problem. Rain or shine, bloom or no bloom, there aren’t many reasons not to attend Porterville’s 20th annual Iris Festival, and like the flower symbolizes, it would be wise not to miss it, and even wiser to get there early. •


20th Annual Porterville Iris Festival • April 28, 9 am to 4 pm 

Main Street, Porterville • www.portervillechamber.org