Wistaria hysteria hits Sierra Madre Sunday

Wistaria hysteria hits Sierra Madre Sunday


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There aren't too many towns that devote an entire day to celebrating a plant. However, you've probably never seen a plant like this.

Listed in “Guinness World Records” as the largest blossoming plant in the world, Sierra Madre's other claim to fame (besides being the film location for the first “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) is a Chinese wistaria vine that weighs 25 tons, and is bigger than the average house.

It's also really old: It was purchased in 1894 from a Monrovia nursery in a gallon can by Alice and William Brugman, who then planted it in their yard. That's why every year in March this staid little burg devotes an entire Sunday to public tours of the privately held plant and a festival in the heart of town offering artwork, handmade jewelry and clothing for sale, plus sumptuous amounts of food and drink and music, music, music.

The usually quiet streets come alive with sights, sounds and the aroma of the blossoming wistaria.

While there are many musical choices available Sunday, from full bands to strolling minstrels, here are a couple of suggestions for your toe-tapping pleasure.

The Superstitions blues band rocks out at noon at Café 322, 322 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Their sound harks back to the post–World War II period when blues went from acoustic to electric. Throw in some Louisiana bayou harp, a little Mussel Shoals soul, some hard-driving LA influences and a pinch of swinging jump blues, and you've got an ass-kicking good time.

Perennial local favorite Rick Shea plays from 1 to 3 p.m. outside the former Blvd. Grill, 120 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Shea is a honky-tonker at heart, Americana to the core, but with a gritty edge. As Shea puts it in his bio, “I've always liked the analogy that your songs are kind of like your children, and for me I guess that means a few of mine may need to go to reform school.”

— John Sollenberger

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