Riverside’s Hidden Gem: UCR Botanic Gardens Festival celebrates 50 years

Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

On Sunday Oct. 6, 2013, the UCR Botanic Gardens celebrated 50 years of life with a five-hour festival from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday’s festival included a docent-led tour of the gardens, hourly demonstrations from puppet-making to composting and the likes of KUCR, Bob’s Bee Rescue and Goodwin’s Organics. With something for everyone, both adults and even babies were able to take or wear something home — face painting from Infinite Imagination proved to a popular destination.

 

Riverside native Jeremy Subriar describes the Botanic Gardens as the “hidden gem of Riverside.” Jeremy, along with his wife and two children at the rose garden — which includes over 300 new and old selections of roses — expressed his family’s relationship to the Botanic Gardens, which they all frequent. Subrair said, “It’s great to bring the kids here,” as his children declared the “flowers and turtle pond” their favorite part.

Along with Sunday’s festivities, the festival was held to most importantly increase community awareness of the UCR Botanic Gardens, as well as promote the UCR Botanic Gardens’ Children’s Fund.

Festival co-chair Margot Chabot laments, “people don’t know where (the gardens) is.” Located just across from the Orbach Science Library, the Botanic Gardens sits on 40-acre chaparral irrigated to represent dozens of micro-climates, making it a bounty of awe-inspiring landscapes, with eucalyptus to South African wildflowers. And yet, many have never set foot inside the gardens or worse, do not know where it is. In the eyes of Chabot, and those who attended the festival, the botanic gardens are a place to share and be enjoyed by more people.

In an effort to do just that, the gardens’ future will focus on the values of “children, sustainability, education, and conservation,” according to Brightie Dunn, the festival’s other co-chair. The aforementioned UCRBG Children’s Fund will play a large role in increasing awareness of the gardens through education and involvement of children in the garden itself.

In today’s technological age, Dunn hopes for children to pause their game of Angry Birds and trade in their tablets for the outdoors. In all sincerity, Dunn understands that tomorrow will be managed by the children today, and hopes to equip them with knowledge to live sustainably, cherish the gardens or even inspire them to become botanists.

With speeches intriguing and, at times, fear-provoking, Bob from Bob’s Bee Rescue was on hand to educate children and festival attendees on everything about bees. Bob shocked elementary schoolers, along with their parents, by casually sharing, “I have been stung 60,000 times since 1976.” Along with personal photos of swollen limbs (a la Cam Brady’s arm in the “The Campaign”), Bob showed off a suitcase that was filled with honeycomb. Bob’s beehive-suitcase — TSA’s worst nightmare — acted as a learning point for Bob to talk to children about the different types of honeycomb, living situations for bees and the different roles for different bees.

Bob’s bee booth was just one of the 30 different booths at the festival that ranged from Goat Rodeo Soap to Riverside Public Utilities. Although all unique, each group similarly provided a more educational and value-added experience to the festival. Whether leaving a literal sugary taste on a child’s tongue — from Bob’s freshly harvested honey — or taking home a new gardening technique from the Riverside County Master Gardeners, each and every group made the festival memorably sweet for everyone in attendance.

Sunday’s festival proved to be successful in bringing a wide range of ages and backgrounds together to enjoy the beauty of the UCR Botanic Gardens and its community. However, Co-Chair Margot Chabot still considered more of a short-term victory. Chabot sees better signage and directions to the garden as a first step in addressing the problem, as the botanic gardens’ signage on campus is minimal.

Whether better signage goes up tomorrow or next year, the gardens will still be open to explore and enjoy. With the beginning of third week and the stress of a new school year finally sinking in, students can visit the gardens, take a page from the Subriar Family’s book and literally stop and smell the roses.

 

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