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Local Feature

BEAUTY AWAITS YOU ON THE FRESNO COUNTY BLOSSOM TRAIL

words by Jenny Graber - images by Ryan Watamura

Nothing ushers in Spring quite like the bountiful blossoms of the Central Valley. From late February through March, curtains of color and fragrant breezes delight your senses as you meander through the Fresno County Blossom Trail. Nestled within the trail you will find the quaint little towns of Reedley, Dinuba, Kingsburg, Selma, Sanger, and Orange Cove and each has something unique and exciting to offer its visitors.

Since its conception in 1988, The Blossom Trail has bloomed into a multifaceted, multicultural event for people of all ages and all walks of life. It has been said that visitors have come from as far away as Japan and Australia just to witness the beauty of the Fresno County Blossom Trail. According to Linda Terry, Chairperson of the Blossom Trail Organization, “the idea for the Blossom Trail began during discussions about how to educate and market Fresno County agriculture on an international level.” When someone at the meeting pulled out a sample brochure featuring blossoms, Linda says the conversation and focus shifted to “how the group could put together a trail linking orchards full of spring time blossoms.”

The effort to move the idea of the Blossom Trail from paper to reality was a huge undertaking. A plethora of groups and individuals were involved in the “birthing.” According to Ms. Terry, these included, but were certainly not limited to, The U.C. Cooperative Extension, The Fresno County Department of Agriculture, The Fresno County Farm Bureau, and the Fresno County Blossom Trail Committee (which included volunteers from the aforementioned groups as well as representatives from the Fresno County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kiwanis Clubs, and the Sanger and Reedley Chambers of Commerce). Additionally, volunteers from agencies such as the Fresno County Probation Department, El Capitan Debris, and the Department of Public Works helped to clean up the route at no cost, assisted in designating turnouts, and erected the first Blossom Trail signs.

Art contests were launched in 1991, and photo contest were added in 1995, says Ms. Terry, as a way of “further involving the community… and creating community pride.” Souvenir type merchandise was created to better market the Blossom trail and some items can still be purchased today. While some of the contests have changed and the souvenirs have been scaled down, the mission of the Blossom Trail remains the same: to draw people to our community to experience the natural beauty of Fresno County’s agriculture and local points of interest.

This year the official Blossom Trail Kick-Off will be on Friday, February 3rd at the Victor Lopez Community Center in Orange Cove. A recent addition to the Blossom Trail is the Orange Blossom Trail Option. The 26 miles of this trail add a refreshing zing of citrus scents to the original Blossom Trail. The Orange Blossom Trail departs from the Blossom Trail at Hwy. 180 and Frankwood Avenue. It winds through the sweet smelling orange blossoms which blanket Orange Cove and reconnects to the Blossom Trail at Manning and Alta Avenues.

From there you can continue west on Manning or head north on Alta. If you take the west bound route, you will come to the City of Reedley, “The Fruit Basket of the World.” The possibilities for exploration are numerous. You can visit the Mennonite Quilting Center, The historical Reedley Opera House, or just have a peaceful picnic by the river at Cricket Hollow Park. Reedley is also home to the Lions Club Blossom Bike Ride which is held on the 1st Saturday in March (see story for more info).

Once you leave Reedley on Manning, the trail will lead you to Lac Jac Avenue where you may want to stop at Luke’s Almond Acres and try some of their tasty treats. Luke’s is a family owned orchard. They have a great gift store where you can sample and purchase an assortment of dried fruits, nuts, and gift packs.

After munching on some snacks, continue on the trail toward the charming communities of Kingsburg and Selma. Stop in Kingsburg and experience a little bit of the Swedish Culture that is integrated into the restaurants and businesses. Or travel further north and visit Selma, The Raisin Capital of The world, and one of the fastest growing communities in the valley. Both offer unique shopping and dining experiences, sure to meet the needs of any visitor.

As you make your way back to the Blossom Trail, by way of Manning and Mendocino, you will travel through the city of Parlier and into the City of Sanger, the “Nation’s Christmas Tree City.” Sanger also hosts the Blossom Days Festival and Annual Blossom Trail 10K Run on the 1st Saturday in March (Call the Sanger Chamber of Commerce for more information).

From Sanger, travel west on Jensen to Clovis Avenue. Here you will find Simonian Farms, dubbed the “official start of the Blossom Trail.” Simonian Farms is a 3rd generation working farm and has much to offers it’s guests. You will find nuts, fruits, gifts, and memorabilia as well as clean bathrooms and picnic areas where you can have lunch and a rest.

Then it’s time to jump back on the road again. Take Jensen east to Fowler Avenue and head North to Belmont. This part of the trail will take you through some beautiful countryside covered with blossoms and orange trees. As you wind through the towns of Centerville and Minkler you can choose to head back to Orange Cove and the Orange Blossom Trail on Hwy. 180 or to continue on the Blossom Trail and back to Reedley.

Whichever trail you choose to end your Blossom Trail experience, you will not be disappointed. “Natures Masterpiece,” as it’s called by Rick Bentley of The Fresno Bee, will leave you breathless. The Orange Blossom Trail will fill you with the sweet aroma of citrus. While the blankets of blossoms on the Frankwood part of the Blossom Trail will create a dazzling last impression. So come and celebrate the season by exploring the unique points of interest in these communities and participating in some of the local Blossom Trail events.

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