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Lompoc’s annual SpringFest celebration is set to return to Ryon Park this weekend with some new elements, including the first public gathering of this year’s Flower Festival Queen candidates.

The three-day event, which has no entry fee, will kick off Friday morning and continue through the evening of April 22. The festival will include many of its mainstay features that attendees have come to expect over the past several years — such as the carnival, live entertainment, car and motorcycle shows and several food and retail vendors — but this year’s event will have some new additions.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Saturday’s list of main-stage entertainment will include the Flower Festival Queen Candidate Premier. That event, at which community members get the chance to meet and learn more about each respective year’s queen candidates, had historically been held at the Lompoc Elks Lodge about a month prior to SpringFest.

This year, however, it was moved to the larger venue with the hope that it would expand interest in the Flower Festival Queen program, according to John Keth, one of the event’s lead organizers.

“If we introduce the girls in the park, then everyone can be there, regardless of income or anything else,” he said, noting that the premiers at the Elks Lodge required attendees to purchase tickets. “And hopefully, it’ll open it up to more little girls who will say, ‘I want to do that when I get older.’”

The premier will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday. It is scheduled to include all six of this year’s Flower Festival Queen candidates, a group comprised of Esther Alvarez, Kaitlyn Chui, Sara Michels, Jillien Smith, Cassandra Wilkins and Jessica Wilson.

The queen candidates will also be involved in the Bippity Boppity Boutique, an exhibit at which “all of Lompoc’s little princesses are invited,” according to the boutique flyer, to participate in activities centered on tiaras and jewels, nail painting, story time, sweet treats and crafts.

Among some other additions to this year’s SpringFest: Solvang Brewing Co. and Pali Wines will have drinks available for adults, and Keth said organizers are planning to bring in a Spiderman climbing wall and add an area for the large inflatable spheres that people can climb into and navigate across water.

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The carnival this year will also offer a potentially less stressful experience, as attendees won’t need to hold onto and count paper tickets. This year, carnival patrons will be able to load their tickets onto a debit card that will be scanned at each ride or attraction for access.

“It should be a heck of a lot easier,” Keth said.

Although the event is just days away, Keth said that organizers are always in need of volunteers and sponsors. Typically, it takes a team of 200 to 300 volunteers to put on SpringFest, he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering or sponsoring SpringFest or this year’s Flower Festival, which will be held June 20 to 24, is encouraged to contact the Lompoc Valley Festival Association at 735-8511.

More information on the events can be found at www.lompocvalleyfestivals.com/home.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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