LA VERNE - A sweet spring tradition kicked off Saturday in La Verne, where residents are invited to soak up local history as they pluck oranges from one of the last working groves in the area amid historic buildings and artifacts.

The La Verne Heritage Foundation's orange picking event at Heritage Park, 5001 Via De Mansion, will continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays until a not-yet-determined date in mid-March.

The event gives residents a glimpse back in time to the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when much of what is now La Verne was dominated by citrus groves, La Verne Heritage Foundation volunteer Ron Baur said.

Baur first volunteered at the grove about 10 years ago at the suggestion of his wife.

"I was just overwhelmed how great this place was," he said.

In the front of the orange grove stands the Weber house, one of the oldest homes in La Verne, which was built in the 1880s and rescued from planned demolition in 1985 by a group of community members who came together to form the foundation, Baur explained.

Also mixed in among the 140 to 150 orange and grapefruit trees are a historical barn, shed and bunkhouse, a tractor and a host of tools and equipment used by local residents 100 years ago.

La Verne, which was called Lordsburg until the residents voted to change the name in 1917, depended heavily on the citrus industry.

"By 1919, more than a thousand carloads of fruit were being shipped annually, and the output continued to grow. The growing, picking, packing, and shipping of oranges, grapefruit and lemons influenced all of life in La Verne," according to the city's website.

Though not the economical force it once was, the small historical grove at Heritage Park produces, "quite a bit," Baur said.

So there's plenty to share when the annual orange picking event rolls around.

Guests are invited to peruse the grounds and help themselves to oranges and grapefruit from the grove for $5 per bag.

"You can't get fresher," said DeWayne Henderson, 41, of Rancho Cucamonga, who picked oranges with his 15-year-old daughter, Emily Henderson of La Verne.

"We're having a great time. It's a perfect day for it," he added. "I think it's awesome that they make this available."

In addition the the public orange picking events on Saturdays, the foundation will also host educational school field trips weekday mornings March 6 through 16.

The children's tours include tractor rides and crafts with orange peels.

In October, similar tours are given with a pumpkin patch theme.

For more information, contact the La Verne Heritage Foundation at 909-593-2862.


brian.day@sgvn.com
626-544-0812