“Irises are really the first things that bloom (in the spring), so it’s kind of a signal that spring is here,” said Dittmore. “We thought it would be fun to bring everyone out for one day to get together and look at the flowers.”
More than 700 varieties, to be exact, all sporting whimsical names such as Bewilderbeast, Good Looking, Fantasm and Carnival Song. Now in its second year, the Brentwood Iris Festival is a cornucopia of eye candy, a colorful field of dreams and a dream come true for the Dittmore family.
Patriarch Maxlin, 74, began his love affair with the Rainbows of the Gods – as irises are affectionately called – at his father’s knee. A generation later, Maxlin and his family have brought the easy-to-grow beauties to the public in the form of the festival. Today, the free event features hundreds of varieties of iris, complimentary hot dogs and beverages, and a student art competition.
Artists from each of the three high schools in the Liberty Union High School District were invited by the Dittmores to participate in this year’s event. Cash prizes will be awarded for the best iris-inspired works – $1,000 to the first-place winner.
The original idea for the art competition came from Maxlin, who said in an interview with the Press last year that the arts were something that he believed should be encouraged among young people. “I was always the littlest and the youngest in my class growing up and it was always the jocks that got honored for their accomplishments,” he said. “In my opinion, the arts need to appreciated and rewarded, too.”
Visitors came to appreciate the aesthetic wonders of the iris by the hundreds last year, cameras and shopping lists in hand, and Dittmore said he expects an even larger turnout this season.
Enthusiasts are invited to come early and often, as the full beauty of the iris lasts only a few weeks, and when the blooms are gone, so is the show.
“We’re trying to build this each year to make it bigger and better each time,” said Dittmore. “Our ultimate plan is to have 1,000 different varieties. We’re really looking forward to this year’s event. The weather should be nice and it’s a great way to spend a few hours on a nice spring day.”
The Brentwood Iris Garden opens this weekend. The Festival will be celebrated on Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Garden will be open Tuesdays through Sundays until the flowers are gone. The festival is located at the Brentwood Iris Garden, 195 Payne Ave. For more information, call 925-595-3838 or visit www.brentwoodirisgarden.com.