Celebrating nature in Morro Bay

The dahlia is Morro Bay’s official flower. Annually celebrated, there are 36 species — all sizes and a multitude of colors. Morro Bay is also a tree city, and last year, townspeople by popular vote selected the Monterey cypress as the city’s official tree.

As a result, Morro Bay’s Garden Club and Official Tree Committee scheduled the free event Dahlia Daze & Cypress Nightz for Aug. 26 to 27 at the Morro Bay Community Center.

“We have lots of events to attract the tourists,” tree committee liaison Taylor Newton said, “and I hope the tourists will want to come, but I really wanted an event to celebrate our community of Morro Bay.”

Beginning at 5 p.m. that Friday, the festivities feature a wine-and-cheese reception to welcome Kevin Larkin, president of the Dahlia Society of California. Dahlias will be displayed in various forms, from flower arrangements to artwork.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that Saturday, demonstrations are scheduled. Master gardeners and arborists will interact with attendees, offering planting tips and challenges. Sponsoring members will also have display tables: Morro Bay’s Garden Club, the Tree Committee, 4-H, the Historical Society, California Rare Fruit Growers, Morro Bay Beautiful and the California Native Plant Society.

Saturday’s speakers include Larkin, Joe Sabol, an area dahlia grower, and Matt Ritter, an associate biology professor at Cal Poly.

“Matt will give an animated speech about the urban forest, then invite all to a guided tree walk through town and discussion of the city’s historic trees,” Newton said. “Councilwoman Nancy Johnson and Councilman Noah Smuckler will also participate in the walk.”

Newton was animated as he talked about Saturday night’s barn dance. “It used to be 60 to 100 years ago, Morro Bayites would come to a barn dance on Saturday night and dance until dawn, then buggy their way back home. They’d put their guns away and enjoy a social with all the folks in the area. I have a dream we can come together as a community — where all will come, dance, enjoy put their finger-pointing down for a night and enjoy each other as social human beings.”

He wants the event to be intergenerational. Morro Bay Recreation Director Joe Woods told him about the 39+ Dance Club that meets to dance weekly to the music of WeR3.

“Some are 99 years old, so I thought they could kick things off at 5 p.m,” Newton said. “Then Molly Reeves and the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band will take over and play until everyone is tired.”

Food and spirits can be purchased. There is no cover charge, but donations will be accepted.

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 805-801-1422.