The golden poppies were a no-show, but the mountain party blossomed anyway


El PASO — The northeast section of this high-desert city doesn’t have much to brag about, but it does have poppies — the yellow flowers that bloom in the spring overwhelming the northeast slopes of the Franklin Mountains in gold glinting with the wind.

But this year, even the yellow poppies abandoned the northeast.

A poppie-less Franklin Mountains. (Isaac Medina/

The poppie-less Franklin Mountains. (Isaac Medina/

It’s a rite of spring for El Pasoans to bask in the beauty of the golden mountains, but 2011 is the year the Mexican Gold Poppies were not willing to bloom. Some blame the unusual unrelenting freezing weather and snow hit El Paso in January and the little rain that has fallen since. But Marilyn Guida Curator of Education at the El Paso Archaeology Museum said, “The poppies not blooming this year really can’t be tied to just one single cause.”

The Fifth Annual Poppies Preservation Celebration was held as usual anyway. Sponsored every year by the El Paso Archeology Museum at 4301 Trans Mountain in conjunction with the Preservation of Castner Range, the event is done to engage the residents sparking their interest in the dessert they call home.

“This is the only place in Texas where these poppies bloom naturally,” said Judy Ackerman secretary of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. According to Ackerman about 30 different ecological and environmental groups participate in the event.

Guida said it’s plain to see that this is more than just a typical family outing. The event this year drew about 2,000 people despite the failure of poppies to bloom. Visitors shared in the festivities and searched the trails for smaller blossoms and participated in other family-fun activities.

The production of the Poppies Preservation Celebration is not only a regional draw, but it also attracts out of state visitors who are drawn by the spectacle that the poppies are known for.

“It really is pure beauty that the poppies bring to the northeast and for the public to share,” said Guida. The community that lives here comes together to share in this event, one that only takes place here, and no matter what border there may be, it’s something that everyone can share, she said.

(Robert Brown/

The Golden Mexican Poppies in 2008 at the Franklin Mountains. Robert Brown won second place with this picture at the Poppy Photo Contest held by the El Paso Museum of Archeology. (Robert Brown/

“The festival has been growing every year now,” Guida said. “It is hard to get an accurate count because there are no tickets.”

The Native American influence is alive and well in and around El Paso and the poppies are no exception. The United Inter-Tribal Nations and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo provided traditional drumming and dancing at the celebration.

There isn’t much entertainment here in the northeast of El Paso, few attractions besides a theater and a baseball field with a team that hasn’t gone into the season yet, and it doesn’t have a mall, unless you stretch a Wal-Mart. However, it does have the poppies, struck with stage fright this year, but expected to return next spring.

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