Fruit Festival, Lilac Festival, Mountain Festival
A Page of History
August 12, 2023
We have made it! This year is the 60th anniversary of Tehachapi Mountain Festival. This year is the Diamond Jubilee! A good time to look back at our mountain city, the Land of Four Seasons.
I wrote a column in 2014 taken from the 1968 Lilac Festival brochure that I had found in my mother, Marion Deaver's, files – it was the only one she had saved. So, having discovered the library at Tehachapi Museum, thanks to Del Troy, I once again imposed upon her to let me see some of the other old brochures.
I chose several, including the 1958 brochure proclaiming that year as the first annual Lilac Festival for Tehachapi, to be held May 31.
That year the welcome was written by then Mayor Steve Valdez, who was also the chairman of the Lilac Festival committee. The theme for that first event was "Westward Ho."
The brochure contained the usual advertisements, queen contestants and rodeo news, but I found a small article titled "Way of Life," which many residents, young and old, now refer to as "quality of life."
The article said the name Tehachapi is an "Indian name meaning plenty of acorns and good water." (I have heard several definitions for the name.)
"To those who live in Tehachapi, the name is synonymous with 'a wonderful way of life. . . YOURS to share.'
"Whether you plan to come for a visit, or stay for a lifetime, Tehachapi offers to every family and to every generation an extra measure of happy, healthful, good living – a more enjoyable way of life for everyone." Over 50 years later the message is still the same.
Now jump ahead to the 1973 Mountain Festival brochure. The name has changed, but the event pretty much remains the same. There are still queens, rodeos, parades, art fairs, barbecues and dances.
One thing that has never changed throughout the years has been the volunteer spirit and enthusiasm for this great three-day event. As the article states in the brochure, "When the Tehachapi Mountain Festival begins to unfold, all the many entertainment features come together like magic.
"A colorful parade seems to materialize out of nowhere, a top-flight professional rodeo thunders on stage with seemingly the turn of the TV dial."
The article explained that no one except the many Tehachapi volunteers who work to put on the festival understand just how much work it takes. There are thousands of small details that all build up to the big event.
For instance, the cover photo for the brochure features an "Indian girl" in a native costume with her arms raised in a field of wildflowers. What went into the making of this photo?
Del Troy showed me the cover and said there was more to the story. Chris's father Tony Anthony actually shot the deer, skinned and tanned it. Chris's grandmother then sewed the costume, adding beads and fringe to make it authentic. Chris graduated that year and was salutatorian of her class.
The brochure included advertisements for various area businesses. One was for J.G. Bisbee Orchards. Teenagers of that time and earlier told tales of sleeping by the orchards in buildings and then getting up when the Tehachapi fall temperatures dropped to light smudge pots to keep the pears from freezing. Other businesses listed were Koutroulis Department Store, Squires Variety and Gift Shop, C&P Market and the Santa Fe Motel, with "clean, cool and quiet rooms."
The committee that year for the festival chose a Mexican theme for the event, featuring Charro riders at the beginning of the rodeo, dancers at the park and of course Mariachis music. Barbecue and Spanish food was served during the weekend.
One event for Friday evening was the Gas Light Gaieties, presented at the veterans Building, with "virtues triumphing over villainy." Another event that has gone by the wayside included a bowling tournament.
This year's festival will be held Aug. 18-20. There will be parades, a rodeo, dances, 5K run and car show, just to mention a few events.
I guess, as I have read, the more things change the more they remain the same.
See you at the festival!