Second annual ‘Walnut Tree Festival’ helps support the community

Photo by LALIG TARBINIAN

Soloist Paul Orsi performs Rag Time music at retirement homes locally for the elderly which he enjoys doing. Rag Time music originated in the late 1800’s and is especially performed on a piano.

Roadside Rest Park, located off Whittier Boulevard in Whittier, is home to the historic Hybrid Walnut Tree. Standing as a living reminder of the nut industry of Whittier’s early days, the tree and surrounding park was the perfect location for the second annual festival held on Oct. 4.

The “Walnut Tree Festival”, began last year co-sponsored by the City of Whittier and the Whittier Cultural Art Foundation in cooperation with King Richard’s Antique Center, located directly across from the former Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility.

The festival [held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.] repeated its success of last year’s inaugural event despite temperatures in the mid-90’s and a somewhat desolated crowd.

Nonetheless, the festival once again invited the public to be a part of the rich history of Whittier and help support the community.

Live entertainment, food trucks, local vendors, and community organizations spotlighted the event, giving attendants a delightful Saturday afternoon.

Among the live entertainment; 1950’s-esque dances were performed, a two-female acoustic guitar duet sang, and a Ragtime pianist played throughout the afternoon.

Towards the later part of the festival, a guitarist covered classic tracks such as The Animals “House of the Rising Sun”.

Children, teenagers, adults, and families were all in attendance as they enjoyed the performances. Gourmet food trucks were onsite to sell [fairly expensive] food items and drinks to cool off in the nearby shade of the park.

Local vendors were able to get their merchandise and products not only sold, but the festival helped them get their name out there in the community for buyers to contact in the future.

Some of the local vendors included well known vendors such as King Richard’s Antique Center and My Whittier. Most of the products on display from vendors ranged from vintage clothing, antiques, jewelry, and even artwork.

Community organizations such as The Whittier Art Gallery, The Rio Hondo Symphony [not affiliated with Rio Hondo College], and The Whittier Conservancy held booths to raise awareness about each individual group and it’s goals for the community.

The Rio Hondo symphony hosts four free classical music concerts each season at the Vic Lopez Auditorium at Whittier High School. The next event will be “Musica Latina” on Nov. 2, and will be a tribute to the music of Latin countries.

The Whittier Art Gallery opened in 1939 and is in the midst of its 75th anniversary currently this year.

The gallery has had a rich famous history in Whittier as Disney art artist Art Landy [who worked on Pluto cartoons and Peter Pan] became the gallery president in 1948.

The sister of famous American painter, Georgia O’Keefe, Ida O’Keefe, once served as the second vice president, gallery historian, and corresponding secretary.

Current Whittier Art Gallery president, Vicki Schramm, was also among the first Rio Hondo students to enroll at the college.

Schramm said, “There was no gum on the floor, the windows were sparkling clean, the benches were brand new, it was a great two years for me.”

The Whittier Art Gallery hosts free month exhibitions and is currently displaying it’s “Celebrate” exhibition up until Nov. 1.

The Whittier Conservancy is a local organization that is committed to preserve Whittier’s unique character and historic sites such as the first bank building and Founder’s Park.

President of The Whittier Conservancy, Ted W. Snyder, was hosting a booth representing the organization and it’s ongoing attempt to preserve the historic site of the former Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility.

“A home developer [Brookfield Homes] succesfully bid to purchase the property in 2010, however we are trying to preserve the 74 acre facility as the devolper would demolish 6 of the 8 historic buildings onsite.

The only reason two would remain is because of a state mandatory rule since the site is California Historical Landmark No. 947,” Snyder said.

Snyder was also a former Rio student and his dad [also Ted Snyder] was one of the founders of El Paisano [Rio Hondo’s student run newspaper].

Snyder said, “My father was the founder and the first administrator of El Paisano and later drifted from journalism to political science.”

­It’s astonishing to know how the local community can share a a rich vast history between both the past and the present and be connected through the help of “The Walnut Tree Festival”.