There’s a lot to love about Lompoc

I was visiting an old friend in Lompoc and decided to stop at Lompoc Museum at 200 South H Street on the way back. I really like small local museums, and this one is a real haven of peace, carefully curated.

Housed in a beautiful 1910 Carnegie Library building, its extensive collection of Chumash artifacts in the main hall is a window into the remarkable culture of the region’s indigenous peoples, and one I view with respect and admiration. On the ground floor, there’s an eclectic gallery of exhibits focusing on pioneers and natural history, including exhibits on the flower industry, diatomaceous earth mining, and townspeople of yesteryear. , looking stern and sepia in old photographs. There’s a seven-million-year-old dolphin fossil and a wall-sized diorama with a fifty-year-old taxidermy arrangement of a mountain lion and a pair of albino coyotes in suspended animation forever, somehow both beautiful and poignant.

There’s all that and more, but other than me and museum director Lisa Renken, the place is empty this Thursday afternoon.

“Even before the pandemic, September tended to be slow,” Lisa tells me, “but you never know what the day has in store. Last weekend and much of the summer has been very busy. The Museum has been practically reopened since July 2021, and we are finding our way, people are starting to emerge. Lompoc itself is going through great changes.

That’s exactly what I wanted to know. Standing in this beautiful museum surrounded by history, I wonder what’s new. I interviewed local elders and met members of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society, and I know that Lompoc is a city that honors its past. But what do all these stories lead to? What’s going on here now?

As I exit, I admire the Italian umbrella pines that were planted by Boy Scouts in the 1930s along three blocks of H Street, and Grace Temple Church, white in the sun. It’s a beautiful day in Lompoc: windy, cool, pale blue sky. I know there’s a whole heritage walk I can do, browsing through murals, historic buildings and monuments, but my mission is to find what’s been happening recently.

I walk to the art association of the Lompoc valley Cypress Gallery at 119 E. Cypress Ave. Founded in 1994, it’s not exactly new, but it’s vibrant with ever-changing exhibitions of work by outstanding local artists. On this occasion, I happen to meet Elizabeth Monks Hack, whose magnificent oil and mixed media paintings on stitched canvas are currently on display. An abstract painting depicts a blue house with a lemon yellow roof and a beautiful burst of sky, and I’m sure if I could look at this image every day, it would be impossible to feel sad. And guess what? Cypress Gallery is holding its fall exhibition from September 29 to October 30ewith a reception on Sunday, October 30 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Another of the artists, Beverly Ann Messenger-Harte, whose zen work is inspired by bamboo, suggested I go to a music store called Some sparkslocated at 107 South H. I am happy to oblige, especially if preceded by a stop at the friendly South side cafe the next door. Southside has long been my go-to coffee spot in Lompoc, and a favorite among locals.

I enjoy walking past some of the murals downtown, one of which depicts a group of zealous women ripping a saloon from its foundations in 1883. Lompoc was established as a temperance colony, and the fanatical efforts to keep the dry and respectable city have been applauded and well documented. There’s a distinct irony to the excess cannabis that has flooded the city recently, but that’s a conversation for another time.

At Certain Sparks, I meet the dynamic Randall Sena, who explains his beginnings as a recording studio that grew to offer music lessons and gigs. In 2017, he helped create the Certain Sparks Music Foundation to provide instrument scholarships and lessons for young people in the community, and there is a monthly open-mic event for young people. It’s an inviting space, and I see kids inside who seem comfortable, happy to work out. It gives me a sense of hope.

In the neighborhood, I thought of saying hello to Ben Barrick, from New stockings, across the street at 104 Ocean. New Lows specializes in art, apparel, skateboards, sign making and custom screen printing. Printing is their bread and butter, but they also host small exhibitions and provide workspace for artists. There’s a hip skate graffiti aesthetic and the palpable energy of youthful creativity here. I ask Ben what’s going on with Lompoc. “Lompoc is booming,” he replies unequivocally. “I’ve lived here most of my life and it’s as good as I’ve ever seen it.”

Ben is a keen observer. He notes that the unbridled proliferation of cannabis dispensaries has had a downside, but he doesn’t buy much of the negative hype. Crime? It’s pretty sure that young people would rather be skateboarders than gang members. He’s seen how food trucks and vendors come together on Food Truck Friday and turn the city into a real festival. There are art nights and singer-songwriter nights, and lots of ideas are brewing.

Now I’m on a roll, and I can’t resist going to see my friend Harvey Green, a Lompoc resident of forty-two years and a former teacher. Harvey knows the city’s past and present exceptionally well. He lives in an 1879 Victorian house built by Lompoc founder WW Broughton, which he has turned into a popular Airbnb, and he is an enthusiastic ambassador. He talks to me about the Lompoc theater project, an ambitious renovation of the 1927 cinema on North H Street, with plans for shows and events. He also mentions the Bodger Trail in the southern foothills overlooking the city, with its panoramic views of the Lompoc Valley, just a five-minute drive from the city center. And new leads keep popping up. I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Stay tuned. There’s a lot to love here. Lompoc is changing, and so are we.

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