The sweet fragrance of ripe oranges pierced through the air at Heritage Park, La Verne’s own citrus ranch, as local residents gathered for the annual orange picking on Saturday.
The last of the city’s old orange groves, the historic park is scattered with old rusted smudge pots and other remnants of a time when orange groves covered the area.
The seasonal event is held each Saturday from January to mid March and is a local tradition that has changed families from all surrounding communities.
“(We) are doing something healthy and really rewarding at the same time and it’s really fulfilling,” said Darlene Renteria, of Glendora, who was there with her family Saturday.
Renteria, who had been to the citrus ranch previously with a “Mommy and Me” class, also brought along a friend this year.
Her group, mostly young children, gathered around the juicing table dotted with orange slices as they waited for their fresh picks to be squeezed into orange juice.
Aside from rows of ripe orange trees, the one and a half acre ranch is also home to a piece of La Verne’s history.
The La Verne Heritage Foundation, rescued the house on the property in 1985 from demolition, and the Weber House is now recognized as a historical landmark.
The Weber House was moved from its original location on Emerald Street to its current spot beside the park’s rows of orange trees.
“Other historical homes don’t have orange groves around (them), and that’s what makes it unique,” Joan Baur, a volunteer at the park, said.
The house is newly renovated and decked with antique appliances.
“We wanted to show the public what it was like to live on a ranch from the 1880s to the 1920s,” Baur said.
The property also has a rustic barn, which also was relocated from its original Emerald street location and holds actual farm tools and nostalgic nicknacks for visitors to view.
During this time of the year, visitors are also welcome to tour the ranch via hay rides.
Besides oranges, the ranch also grows grapefruits and lemons, now ripe for picking.
“There have been visitors from other countries that have been able to share this experience,” Baur said.
“We’ve had relatives of families from out of the country come from Belgium, Germany, you name it.”
Other orange pickers Saturday included Jill Egan, an Upland resident, who came back a second weekend with her husband to pick more oranges.
“(They’re) very sweet and juicy,” Egan said.
“(We)get to pick them ourselves and it’s fun to pick them. I’m inspired to come back again next year.”
La Verne resident Karen Theetge had two bags of oranges from the day.
“The first time was really fun so we decided to do it again,” Theetge said.
“The oranges are nice and late in season, and we’re going to come back again in the next years to come and do it for the grandkids.”
The orchard is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m Saturdays through mid-March, Fill-your-own bags are $5 each.
Monica Dien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.