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Back in the old days

A look back on past Mountain Festivals


August 3, 2019

The Mountain Festival has been a staple of Tehachapi summers since 1963. Now in its 56th year, it continues to be a quality three-day event for the families of Tehachapi. It’s a chance for local businesses and craftsmen to set up and sell their products. It’s a weekend that kicks off the school year with food, live music, carnival rides, an arts and crafts show and a parade. This year will feature the Mountain Gallop 5K and 10K, the Thunder on the Mountain Car Show, PRCA Rodeo, the VFW Dinner and Dance, a pancake breakfast and much more. Residents and neighbors come to enjoy some of the last warm summer weather in Central Park, and an event that is quintessentially Tehachapi.

Carl Gehricke, local business owner and Tehachapi resident for the past forty plus years, has some fond memories of the Mountain Festival as it was in the 1980s. The old Mountain Fest wasn’t all that unlike the new. There were still arts and craft vendors in Central Park, still a parade and droves of Tehachapi residents coming out to celebrate.

“Back in the eighties, Mountain Festival on Friday night used to be in Old Towne. The parade? That was down South Street. It started where the veterinarian was, where now the tattoo parlor is,” says Gehricke, “And then we had the cow chip throwing contest after that. And then we had the fiddler’s contest, and that was done by the Old Towne committee.”

Mountain Fest in the 1980s also featured a lively dance in the parking lot of what is now the Moose Lodge, but back then was the C&P grocery parking lot. “It was the dance,” says Gehricke. The sportsmen’s club sold the liquor and beer, and tickets were sold for five dollars each.

Gehricke was the one who brought the carnival with all its rides and games to the Mountain Festival. “About 18 years ago was when we first had the carnival,” says Gehricke. He wanted to bring a carnival to Mountain Fest, so he went to city council. There were a few hurdles before a carnival could be brought to Tehachapi. At the sheriff’s request, everyone working there had to be fingerprinted and have background checks run. Gehricke, a correctional officer at the time, and certified for making such checks, simply said, “Fine. We’ll go do it.” All these years later, the same people with the same company have come up every year with the Ferris wheel and other various rides and games. Some attractions of Mountain Festival have come and gone, but many are still going strong, and plan to for quite some time. Although the location has changed, there’s still a parade featuring Tehachapi residents, police officers and local pageant queens.

One year, Mountain Festival had to be held in the Tehachapi High School football field. “We did that one year when we got kicked out of the park because of too many people,” says Gehricke, “And that had no shade. Why do we stay at City Park? Trees!” The festival has since managed to remain in the shady park, much to the gratitude of people trying to escape the August heat.

Gehricke still owns a map of Tehachapi and all its businesses from 1980. “Most of the businesses are gone. I don’t think there’s anything left under the same name that we were when we started.” According to Gehricke, Benz Propane is the only company still in business from the 1980s. Gehricke started a business by the name of Tehachapi Bible Bookstore 38 years ago.

South Street and Old Town are ever-changing landscapes when it comes to businesses. In the 1980s, all the buildings that now hold businesses were 10x30 mini-storages with sheet rock walls. Gehricke had the idea to develop these storage units into usable buildings. “I said hey, what if I take this frame and that front and make it an office?” The owner of the storages said, “As long as I get paid my fifty dollars a month.” That office still stands today. Other nearby businesses included a sign company, AT&T, and Oak Tree Art Antiques, which has since moved to W. Tehachapi Blvd. Tehachapi Appliance Repair has become Oak Valley Appliance Repair which is now on F Street. Thirty-four years ago, True Value opened up. Owning a business on old South Street was a good deal, and little by little, it has grown from those few businesses into the ones we know today.

The Mountain Festival is good for a great many things. It’s good for local vendors and artisans, and it’s good for families looking to have fun with their neighbors. According to Gehricke, the Saturday of Mountain Festival is a prime time for recent graduates of Tehachapi High School to hold little reunions. “We get a lot of that on Saturday, the kids coming back for reunions. We’ve had some class reunions during that time.” It’s the perfect weekend to get together with old classmates and catch up with each others’ lives. This Mountain Festival, as with all Mountain Festivals, Tehachapi residents should greet their neighbors and show their local pride, remembering to keep in mind how things were back in the old days.


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