Although the old Mission La Purísima Concepción is no longer a parish but a state historic park, it remains a valuable learning tool for those interested in discovering how life was lived during California’s mission days more than two centuries ago.Hosting upward of 200,000 guests a year, La Purísima also boasts a modern visitors’ center that gives prominence to the Catholic heritage of La Purísima Mission State Park. (The actual parish of La Purísima Concepción is located several miles away in Lompoc, as is neighbor parish Queen of Angels.)

Founded in 1787 as the 11th of the 21 California missions, La Purísima was abandoned in 1834 following secularization of the mission system, and soon fell into ruin. In 1934, exactly 100 years after the padres left, the Civilian Conservation Corps began reconstructing the church and a whole complex of buildings.

Since then, the residents of the region have actively participated in making the old mission come to life throughout the year, and especially during the summer tourist season. The following highlights some of the events planned this year (most are 11 a.m.-2 p.m., except where noted):

---Mission Life Days: On July 21, “Children’s Mission Life” emphasizes children's life at the mission, kid friendly activities and dress up. On Sept. 15, “Military Mission Life” will emphasize the military life in the mission.

---Village Days (Aug. 18, Nov. 3): The Tule Village comes to life as visitors experience the blending of traditional Chumash and Colonial Spanish life ways. Demonstrators help visitors learn a variety of skills such as grinding acorns, basket weaving, building a tule house, making soapstone beads or tule dolls, and playing Chumash games.

---Purisima's People Day (July 7, Sept. 8): Costumed re-enactors portray the people who call La Purisima Mission home, circa 1822. Visitors may meet Padre Payeras, the Mayordomo, blacksmith, and the women and children completing their daily chores. 

---Mountain Men (Aug. 17-18, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.): Buckskin-clad members of the American Mountain Men share mountain men history and skills. Cooking, hide preparation and tanning, leather working, rope making, and blacksmithing are among the skills that visitors may experience. Equipment will be on display and tall tales will surround the campfire.

In the fall, the annual “Candlelight Tours” (Oct. 12-13) invites visitors to walk through the old mission as the flicker of candlelight illuminates the evening activities of 1820s mission residents and savor the cuisine of the 19th century (tickets are $40 per person, available after July 1 by mail order only). 

And the annual Founding Day Mass on Dec. 8 (noon) celebrates the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in the historic main church, the setting for a candlelit Founding Day Christmas Concert that evening.

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park is located at 2295 Purisima Rd., Lompoc. Information: (805) 733-3713 or

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