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A Community Celebrates

A Community Celebrates 

Few communities have a resource like the Topanga Community Center! Join us for a celebration of this uniquely Topanga institution that is here because of the vision, dedication and determination of generations of volunteers. In this issue of TNT, we explore TCC’s remarkable history, and share all the details for the 48th annual Topanga Days Festival, this Memorial Day weekend. Get ready to rock! Cover designed by Urs Baur. Cover photographs:“Future site of the Community House,”photographed by Ray Penn, and “Topanga Days Memorial Day Parade,” 2001, photographed by Katie Dalsemer for the Topanga Messenger. Both images courtesy of the Topanga Historical Society.

And just like that, it’s over. The national COVID-19 Public Health Emergency that has dominated everyone’s lives since January 2020, ended last Thursday. It’s not that COVID-19 has gone away—it killed an estimated 5,000 people in April—but instead of being an all-consuming crisis, it is now just another of the ills released by mankind from Pandora’s box. It can’t be put back, so we have learned to live with it.

The Canyon’s beloved Topanga Days Festival was one of the local cultural institutions disrupted by the pandemic. The festival was back on a limited scale last year for the first time in two years. This year, it’s full-speed ahead. Memorial Day weekend will bring three full days of music, food, fun, magic and madness to the Topanga Community Center—TCC. This is the main fundraiser for TCC, the remarkable, one-of-a-kind Topanga resource that is the heart of this community, and offers so much for all ages. We have the full lineup of bands and activities, and TNT publisher Bonnie Morgan shares a fascinating look at the history of the Topanga Community Center. Very few communities anywhere have anything like TCC. Topanga Days offers a taste of what makes this place so remarkable. Don’t miss it! 

There is another much loved and time-honored Topanga event this May. The Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Festival, at Paramount Ranch. The Fiddle Festival was not only impacted by the pandemic, it was hard hit by the Woolsey Fire in 2018, which destroyed all of the buildings and infrastructure at Paramount Ranch, where the festival has taken place ever since it outgrew its Topanga roots. This year it is back at the ranch, with five music stages, dancing, food and fun for all ages. The festival takes place on Sunday, May 21. Visit for all the details. 

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer—the actual astronomical solstice doesn’t occur until June 21—and the warm weather is already here! Look for one last glorious blaze of late spring flowers, as the summer heat arrives and the green of the wettest winter in years turns to its more accustomed dusty gold.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and the hills—so lush and green—are already changing to summer gold, but this year remains unusual. Many creeks are still flowing, and the wildflowers are lingering, thanks to the late and heavy rains. Look for one last extravagant flowering of pale pink clarkia, yellow bush sunflowers, and vivid orange deerweed before the official start of summer in June. And there are summer flowers still to come: chaparral yucca—living up to its folk name “Lord’s candles”—hillsides covered in white and pink buckwheat flowers and alive with bees, and the luminous beauty of the rare and lovely mariposa lilies, white and yellow.

The warmer weather means this is rattlesnake season. Hikers and gardeners need to be aware that snakes are present, warming themselves in the sun, sheltering in the brush on the edge of the trail or the edge of the garden, seeking warmth at night from asphalt, pavement, and sometimes the corner of one’s kitchen or bathroom. Staying alert and making sure doors and windows are securely screened is the best way to prevent problems. Most local vets stock rattlesnake vaccine and antivenom, but not all emergency rooms are equipped, and bites are painful and expensive to treat. It’s a good idea to never place one’s hands or feet where one can’t see them, and to keep dogs on a leash on walks. Avoiding encounters is the best approach to peaceful coexistence.

[Our website has a page dedicated to area snake wranglers. Please let us know if there should be any changes to our list if you happen to use this resource for help.

This year, for the first time in more than a hundred years, the Santa Monica Mountains are home to a bear. BB-12 is a young male black bear who managed to safely cross the 101 freeway. He appears to have taken up residence in the western Santa Monica Mountains in 2021. This handsome fellow made headline news earlier this month. Here at TNT we have the full story, and a look at the legend-laced history of the California grizzly bear, who once made these mountains its home. 

One of the things that makes life in the Santa Monica Mountains so special is the amazing variety of wildlife around us. Living here is a blessing and an adventure.

Stay safe, be well. Don’t feed the bear.

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