By Derek Johnson
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
Mountain residents enjoyed another fantastic Pine Cone Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 after a two-year pandemic hiatus. The gently sloping forest at Rim Nordic Ski Area hosted a large number of vendor booths, games, activities, displays and events for visitors to enjoy. People of all ages reveled in the perfect weather – sunny with temperatures in the low 70s – and everyone had great food and great fun in the forest.
Festival visitors parked for free across the highway at Snow Valley. While some made the highly unadvisable trip across the highway on foot, most made use of the free shuttles provided by Pali Mountain. The driver of the shuttle spent all day ferrying passengers, driving in small circles from one side of the 18 to the other. Passengers enjoyed humorous quips by the driver like, “Everybody be quiet or I’ll turn this thing around!”
The festivities kicked off with the classic soft rock stylings of Little Bear Valley Blues and then were roused to attention by the Mountain Fifes & Drums who marched in and conducted the flag ceremony. Emcee Laura Dyberg gave opening remarks and presented a plaque honoring the work of American Legion Post 360 for their work in the community. Commander Robert Tiberi accepted the award and spoke to the crowd about their scholarships and other charitable activities. Soon after, Mountain Fifes & Drums led a procession through the sprawling festival grounds to the Pine Cone Olympics, held at the farthest end.
The Pine Cone Olympics, sponsored by Rim High Marching Band, consisted of three events – pine cone toss (an underhanded toss for distance), archery (three arrows to knock down three pine cones) and pine cone basketball free throws. Congratulations to the day’s winners, who are listed on the website – www.pineconefestival.org – as are the winners of the craft contest.
Later in the day, the Fifes & Drums performed again at the main pavilion while attendees ate lunch. Attendees also enjoyed classic rock music performed by solo artist Daniel Arroyo.
Vendors were spread out comfortably around the expansive venue. Near the entrance, the various first responder organizations put their vehicles on display with compartments open so that visitors could take a look at the wide variety of specialized equipment they use in their firefighting and rescue operations.
Kids had fun playing in a bounce house and meeting the costumed mascots, Cheekers the Squirrel and Smokey Bear.
At 1 p.m., the winners for the pine cone contest were announced. The two categories for entrants were for the longest sugar pine cone or the heaviest Coulter pine cone. In the sugar pine category, Victor Medeiros’ submission measured 20-1/8”. According to festival judges, he found the cone in Cedarpines Park. Unfortunately, Victor was not present to accept his award, which he will receive later.
In the Coulter pine category, LeeAnn Tallman’s massive Coulter pine cone submission weighed in at 4 pounds 4 ounces. She explained that she picked up this cone at her home in Twin Peaks on the morning of the festival. “The tree is on our property, and I’d estimate its age at just 15 or 20 years.”
Although neither of these submissions broke the record of 23-¼” or 5 pounds 2.8 ounces, they were both still very impressive to see. Prizes for each winner this year were nearly $850 in value. All runners-up can keep their cones, but the winning cones are kept at Pine Rose Cabins in Twin Peaks to be displayed.
Cal Fire defended its Pine Cone Brigade championship. Chris Whitty guessed there were 177 pine cones in the jar, off by only one cone – there were 178. Dozens of folks won raffle prizes valued at more than $3,800.
Overall, attendees, vendors and volunteers all exhibited a mellow and cheery disposition throughout the festival. All in attendance would agree that it was a Saturday well spent in the dappled shade of the forest.
Mountain Fifes & Drums kicked off the festivities
Local Preschoolers Goldie and Dusty Gomes pose with Cheekers and Smokey Bear.
Submissions to the world’s largest pine cone contest.
The Pine Cone Olympics were enjoyed by young and old.
Smokey poses with LeeAnn Tallman and her winning Coulter pine cone submission.