Friday, April 13, 2007

Festival marks Milestone for Rialto Orange Grove (Press Enterpise)

Festival marks milestone for Rialto orange grove

10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, March 31, 2007

Special to The Press-Enterprise

The fragrance of orange blossoms scented the air Saturday as Rialto's last surviving orange grove reached its centennial milestone, marked by a Grove Fest birthday party.

Several hundred people attended the celebration in a tree-shaded area in front of one of the grove property's ranch-style houses.

The Adams-Cooley grove was planted in 1907 by V. R Cooley on 20 acres along Cactus Avenue between Randall and Merrill avenues.

Story continues below

Ed Crisostomo / The Press-Enterprise
Bob Fraley and Friends entertain the crowd Saturday with music during the Grove Fest celebration in Rialto.
During the 1970s, half of the acreage was sold, leaving 10 acres that remain in the family of Cooley's grandson, John Adams.

"Our grove is a complete working orchard from the good old days of Southern California, with the 100-year-old irrigation system and all the buildings still intact," said Adams, 62. "We farm it just as it was farmed in my grandfather's day."

The oranges are harvested and marketed by a Riverside packing house. Among the original buildings still standing on the property is one constructed of irrigation flumes from a neighboring grove.

During Saturday's celebration, Rialto Mayor Grace Vargas presented Adams with a plaque commemorating the occasion. Guests enjoyed lively bluegrass music offered by Bob Fraley and Friends, nibbled on birthday cake and drank fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Joining the party was Adams' mother, Jean, 92, an artist who has created paintings of the grove many times during her career. A poster incorporating one of her watercolors commemorated the Grove Fest and was available at the event.

Jean Adams still lives on the property with her son, John, a local historian.

Also in attendance were several dozen graduates of Rialto's Eisenhower High School, who have reconnected in recent years through Adams' efforts on the Internet.

"This is all so thrilling and incredible," said Ruth Fraley Parker, 62, a Class of 1962 classmate of Adams.

"I grew up around here and walked to school through the groves," said Parker, who now lives in Orange County. "We all have fond memories of the groves."

She said that she saw Adams' name on the Web site several years ago and e-mailed him. The contact led her to visit the Rialto Historical Society, which Adams has helped to spearhead and maintain.

Parker and another classmate, Jennifer Selbert, also of Orange County, helped Adams organize the Grove Fest. An avid gardener, Selbert also designed a poster for the event, detailing the edible plants that grow wild in the grove and that Adams harvests for cooking use by local ethnic groups.

A visitor from Colorado, James Selbert of the Class of 1959, gifted Adams with a group of vintage black and white photographs of Rialto for use by the historical society.

A number of family members were on hand as well.

"This was a great place to be a kid," said Bob Adams, 44, who lives in the Bay Area. "We would spend hours and days on end roaming the groves."

Bob Adams is a nephew of John's who lived in Pasadena as a child and visited Rialto in the summers.

"Once there were approximately 1,000 acres of citrus in Rialto and a small grove could support a family," said John Adams, who edited a recent book of historical photographs of Rialto.

Now his grove is the only one left in the city, he said.

Grove Fest guest Thomas Lopez, 66, of San Bernardino, sees Adams as a good influence on local preservationists.

"The people in power are starting to preserve the orchards in other cities," he said.

BS Ranch Perspective:

The whole thing about this festival was that the Orange Orchard that they were happy to celebrate was that of one that has been in the Same Rialto Family for 100 years. It was Planted by the Great Grand Father of the Current 62 year old owner with which I find wonderful that someone would keep anything in the family that long. Let alone, that the family still works the Orchard as a working Orchard. They Take the Fruit that they harvest out to a Packing Plant in Riverside One that had been in Business for almost as long as they planted the Orchard. Since they Closed the Packing Plant that was in Downtown Rialto, and the closest one was the one in Riverside, I bet it is close to the rail road.

I am happy for the family to have gotten the honor that the Rialto City gave them this year. That was Great, and Well Deserved!!

BS Ranch

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