Festivals in the California high desert communities of Antelope Valley are as plentiful as the poppies that turn the hills gold every spring. At least three events have used the term Fall Festival in the area's history. Each is unique and draws crowds from Los Angeles -- 45 minutes to the west -- tourists from elsewhere in California and surrounding states, as well as local residents, to enjoy music, exhibits, rides, food and fun.
Antelope Valley is in the western Mojave Desert between the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains. Its elevation makes nights cool, while day temperatures top 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The area is home to Edwards Air Force Base and major aerospace industries; Lancaster and Palmdale are the major cities. An annual Poppy Festival in April starts the season for nearly continuous festivals.
Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival
Antelope Valley's first fall festival began in 1895 as a two-day event to celebrate the alfalfa harvest in Lancaster, the smaller of the Valley's two cities. Reborn in 1938 with Hollywood entertainers, it grew into the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival (avfair.com), featuring the Rural Olympics, contests between local farmers and ranchers in tugs-of-war, tractor handling and hay loading. Now a major 11-day fair with carnival rides, off-track betting, arts and crafts and food vendors, it moved from fall to summer and attracts 250,000 to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds for headliner concerts, livestock shows and jet-powered transformer race cars on the last weekends in August. Phone: 661-948-6060 for further information.
Valyermo Fall Festival
Antelope Valley is home to Benedictine monks who were missionaries in China until expelled, and who now live in St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, 45 minutes northeast of Los Angeles. The annual Valyermo Fall Festival began as a small local fair to raise maintenance funds in 1957 and grew into a weekend festival with six ethnic restaurants and more than 60 attractions, from artworks and ceramic pieces by the monks to the Antelope Valley Children's Choir, live music, singing nuns and dancing monks, on the 750-acre monastery grounds. It was held on the last weekend in September until 2009, when the monks suspended it. They were discussing what would replace it, but had made no announcement as of July 2011. The Abbey is open to visitors at 31101 N. Valyermo Road; phone 888-454-5411.
Palmdale Fall Festival
Palmdale's is the remaining fall festival in the Antelope Valley. Organized by the city in 1985 with 197 arts-and-crafts vendors, the Palmdale Fall Festival (no website, 2723 Rancho Vista Blvd., 661-267-5611) is co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and profits help community projects. Held on the second weekend in October, it's two days of acrobats, country and rock bands and children's shows on six stages, hundreds of crafts and fine-art booths, food vendors, a farmers' market, aerospace expo, the Enchanted Fairy Garden and Dragon's Lair and street entertainers. Entertainment is free, with gate admission. It moved to Marie Kerr Park at 2723 Rancho Vista Blvd. in 2005. From Los Angeles, take Highway 14 north, exit at Rancho Vista Boulevard and turn left (west).
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