VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- A few times each year, I have the good fortune to be able to travel on temporary duty to Vandenberg Air Force Base, working public affairs issues for Air Force Global Strike Command’s Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile test launches.

I have traveled to Vandenberg 10 times in the last eight years, and have seen many of the local tourist attractions. However, until my last trip at the beginning of May, I never had the time to explore much of the town nearest the base – the City of Lompoc.

Lompoc is known as the City of Arts and Flowers, and on May 1, I discovered why. Winter and spring rain this season had a wide variety of flowers in full bloom, and the city was awash in color. The most amazing part of my visit, however, was discovering the amazing artwork on display all over town.

Old Town Lompoc displays more than 30 colorful murals painted on the sides of buildings. There are a few scattered in other parts of the city, but most of the murals are within walking distance of each other, and what a story they have to tell! From the depiction of the first Purisima Mission in town (which was later destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt at its present location) and the founding of the city to the native Chumash Indians and the space mission at Vandenberg, the murals tell the story of the city and its rich history.

The Lompoc Mural Project idea began in 1988 after two Lompoc residents visited British Columbia, and found that the small community of Chemainus was using art to develop tourism in their declining town of 3,500 people. They came back and shared the idea with other members of the community, who were enthusiastic about the project. The first mural, “Flower Industry,” was painted in 1990. Since then the society has added dozens of new murals, but privately created murals have also been done throughout the city. You can learn more about the society and its history here: www.lompocmurals.com/history

Each major mural has a sign posted nearby that tells the history depicted in the mural, and maps showing the location of each mural are available at area businesses. I got mine at the Lompoc Museum, which is a little gem in the city that shares the history of the Chumash Indians native to the area, and highlights the history of the city.

I spent about three hours just walking around Old Town Lompoc, enjoying the beautiful weather, the beautiful flowers, and the beautiful artwork. It’s truly a hidden treasure on the Central Coast. If you’re fortunate enough to be stationed at Vandenberg, or even if you’re just there for a visit, take the time to view these amazing murals. You’ll be glad you did!

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