t’s gone by many names, the Harvest Festival, the Fall Festival, but this weekend’s festival is still the best yearly entertainment in Pahrump Valley.
For almost 50 years, the annual festival has been a treat for locals and visitors alike. One of the founders, Pahrump Valley pioneer Tim Hafen, said the original intent was to get the word out about Pahrump to outsiders. That job is still being perfected today.
Many families from Las Vegas will make the trip over the hill to see this traditional, small town festival. It may be their only trip to Pahrump the entire year. A lot of out-of-town parents will scoop up carnival passes for their children to take all the thrill rides until they’ve had their fill, one of the main attractions for some. This year, however, some families will be hard-pressed in this economy to come up with the $30 for the carnival pass; many locals got smart and bought advance tickets for $23. The carnival is put on by a Pahrump company, Davis Amusement Cascadia Inc.
Some of the traditional events of years past have gone by the wayside. There’s no longer the deep pit barbecue, where tasty tri-tip was buried in burlap bags in the ground overnight. Out-of-town celebrity bands won’t be on stage this year as in years past, like Do Wopp.com, the Eagles tribute band Hotel California or the U.S. Marine Corps band. The sword juggler and the man on stilts also don’t walk around the grounds any more.
But local Pahrump bands, dance groups and entertainers will get a chance to show off for the crowd. The entertainment ranged from reggae group Stan Rankin T and Meshack to the Nye County Starlets Thursday night. I’m sure many of the attendees probably otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see Wax Pig Melting before the festival or Beach Bum Jeff.
This year there won’t be a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association event but the Rocky Mountain Professional Rodeo, with 800 members and 35 professional rodeos per year to thrill the crowd at McCullough Arena. We’ve been promised a return of the PRCA rodeo in coming years.
Out of towners from Las Vegas and California often line the parade route on Highway 160. The parade begins at 9 a.m. Saturday near Highway 160 and Dandelion Road. The theme for this year’s parade will be “Remember When … Pick your Favorite Era.” It’s also an occasion to honor another contributor to the Pahrump community; this year it’s Laraine Harper, founder of Symphony Animal Foundation, a planned, no-kill animal shelter. Competition is keen for one of the awards handed out to different floats in various categories.
After the parade is usually the busiest time on the festival grounds as crowds filter into the park. Where else would someone be able to taste some of the goods sold by vendors like Fazackerley Fudge, who only sell at festivals, or that great Southwest delicacy Indian tacos? Vendors selling anything from cowboy hats to pet engraving tags have their goods on display. Grab a business card to get that special item later on if you can’t get it now.
Local, nonprofit groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars have used the occasion to raise funds by selling beer, other groups sell barbecue, proceeds from the Ozark Mountain Barbeque this year will benefit the Pahrump Rotary Club.
One of the best things about the annual festival from a veteran Pahrump attendee every year is seeing all the kids wandering around, finally they have something to do. Pahrump doesn’t offer a lot of activities for youths, unless they’re busy with sports, church groups or other organized activities. There’s bowling at the Pahrump Nugget Casino or skateboarding at the skate park. The annual festival gives them a whole weekend of entertainment.
We welcome the scheduled return of the pie-eating contest and the sexy legs contest, which were crowd pleasers in years past. They are supposed to return in the 2014 festival. Apparently there was too much controversy over the cute baby contest.
The election season is beginning earlier and earlier every time. The Fall Festival is essential to any candidate running in the upcoming election, which in this case doesn’t happen until November 2014, but candidates are already lining up booths and entries in the parade.
In Pahrump there is no county fair, but the Fall Festival is the next best thing. Most county fairs feature agriculture and animal husbandry. Fair attendees shouldn’t miss the livestock pens while strolling the grounds, they’re near the west side of the grounds in front of McCullough Arena, snug between the booths. This year a giant pumpkin contest is being sponsored by the master gardeners. A chicken poop bingo contest is scheduled, in which bettors put wagers on which square the chicken will do his business.
An old-fashioned horseshoe tournament is also new to the festival this year.
Attendees also shouldn’t miss the arts and crafts displays, away from the noise and excitement inside the Bob Ruud Community Center. This year the displays won’t be judged, but again, judged entries are promised next year. Quilts, needlework, crocheting, embroidery and various fiber arts will be on display.
On Saturday evening, the crowds often sell out the McCullough Arena for the biggest night of the rodeo. But a few blocks away, the sound of roaring engines can be heard as the Pahrump Valley Speedway puts on its races in IMCA, WCSS and IMCA modified classes.
We’re relieved the annual grape stomp at the Pahrump Valley Winery is no longer held the same weekend as the Fall Festival. The grape stomp was formerly timed to coincide with the festival, when all the crowds are in town But the grape stomp has taken on a new life of its own, now going to two days of entertainment Oct. 5-6. It was too hard to make both events.
Fortunately, the town of Pahrump rescued the annual fall festival last year, after PAVED at short notice backed out last year. People can point fingers at various officials and organizers why the group cancelled out. But one thing is for certain, the festival is too good of a time to let die on the vine. The town of Pahrump can serve as a sponsor until another group is willing to take charge. Hopefully the economy will improve and local companies will step up to sponsor events in coming years.
Pahrumpians can put on a festival by themselves, they don’t need to hire a company that puts on events. Let’s all get out to the festival and have a good time!