By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Richard Quinn/Ventura County Star

Love of lavender blooms at Ojai festival

 June 28, 2014

Ojai, Calif. - All things lavender — including lavender-infused lemonade, apothecaries and gluten-free coconut lavender macaroons — drew shoppers and spectators to Saturday's annual Ojai Valley Lavender Festival at Libbey Park.

"Sometimes it gets so crowded, you can't see the sidewalk," said festival organizer Cindy Mullens, of Ojai.

This year's event showcased 105 vendors.

"Most of them are featuring lavender somewhere in their booth — either it's clothing, jewelry or food or books on lavender," Mullens said. "Whatever it is ... it's lavender-related."

Festival proceeds benefit help provide scholarships to local youths, Mullens said.

"We usually raise around $5,000 in scholarships," Mullens said.

"I hope that somebody in this whole crowd is positively influenced by the beneficial qualities of lavender. I hope that somebody realizes the agriculture that goes on in this valley and how much we want to improve it and contribute it by sending these kids off to college so they'll come back and give to us."

Teen Challenge, a nonprofit residential program in Ojai that helps women overcoming substance abuse, was raising money by selling lavender-infused lemonade for the fourth year in a row.

"They're allowing us to sell this lemonade, which makes us money. All the money we're raising today goes to these ladies," said Rosie Weir, of Ojai, program director.

Nearly 50 women enrolled in Teen Challenge were on site Saturday as volunteers, making and serving lemonade as well as helping vendors and guests.

"The girls learn work skills out here, which helps them get back into the community," Weir said. "The lavender committee is very good to us, and the girls love the event; it's one of the most fun events that the Teen Challenge girls work to raise money for their stay at the center."

Candice Wilson, of Ojai, a past vendor at the festival, was there to shop Saturday.

"I like to support the Ojai Lavender Festival because it's really important for us to support our local gigs," said Wilson, who purchased lavender pillows, greeting cards made from fabric and a novel, "The Ojai: Pink Moment Promises."

"Everybody needs a copy of this book," Wilson said. "It has accurate history about Ojai. ... The history is just wonderful, and it just pulls you in."

Cheryl Carlsen, of Nipomo, sold her handcrafted jewelry in her 10th year as a vendor.

"We have friends who live in Ojai, so we come and visit them and do the festival," Carlsen said. "I just love the vibes of Ojai."

Cheri Googe, of Burbank, and her friend Beth Jensen, of Toluca, made the drive to Ojai after reading about the festival in their local newspaper.

"I thought, ‘What a great thing to come and check out,' " Jensen said.

Googe chimed in, "And I'm always available to shop." She bought a child's apron that holds crayons, a scarf clip and a Christmas tree ornament.

"Were going to buy some bread and try the iced lavender lemonade," Jensen said. "Then we're going to wander around Ojai because we've never been to Ojai."

Googe added that their first visit to Ojai was "a really good time."

"Ojai is really enchanting," Googe said.

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