Lancaster, Calif. may be only 90 minutes from the heart of Los Angeles, but the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival is every bit a community event that could be at home in any more rural community.
This year the home-town fair’s theme was “Holy Cow, We’re 80 Now,” and was held August 17th – 26th at the Antelope Valley Fair & Event Center. 225,000 attended the event.
According to fair CEO Dan Jacobs, “The Antelope Valley Fair has a long tradition of providing fun and opportunities for every generation. This year, we brought some new attractions including The Backyard, the first annual Youth Film Festival, and the 80s Flashback Party.” He notes that grandstand seating to concerts and some arena events were also free. He says the fair coordinators really made an “effort to ensure that wherever anyone went, they could find something affordable for the whole family to enjoy.”
Pre-Sale general admission tickets were $7; regular general admission tickets $11.00, youth and senior admission tickets $8.00. Active Military and their dependents entered free with a military service photo ID. A variety of specials also helped to keep things reasonable: on opening day from 4-5 p.m., fair admission and parking were both free; a Kids, Senior, and Special Needs Citizens Day offered free admission at specific times as well as a complimentary lunch for Special Needs individuals and their caregiver. Donated canned goods and books provided discounts on other days, and benefited the Rotary Club of Lancaster Book Drive and Grace Resources Canned Food Drive. The book drive event requested fairgoers bring 1 new or 3 used elementary-reading-level books to the fair and in return receive a free admission ticket and one free ride pass. The event also helped to promote the fair in area schools. Unlimited ride carnival wristbands were $25.00 in advance, $35.00 once the fair began.
The Antelope Valley Fair began with an 1895 celebration for area farmers and ranchers; an organized Harvest Festival took place in 1931. The fair organization itself was formed in 1938, founders purchased grounds that marked the home of the fair until 2003, when it moved to its current quarters in Lancaster, where it is now a 10-day event.
And what an event it is, with an especially strong musical line-up and plenty of traditional favorites. Artwork, floriculture, gems and minerals, livestock, home arts, and agriculture exhibitors offer many demonstrations from quilting to floral arrangements.
To beat the heat this year, the fair opened daily at 4 and closed at midnight except on the 26th, when the fair closed at 11 p.m. That meant a glittery midway and plenty of strong performances, including the alternative rock band The Fray, Chaka Khan with Sheila E., STYX, and Chase Rice with Devin Dawson. Country music sensation Justin Moore also performed. Each of these concerts were strong draws. All concert tickets, which ranged from $20-$80, included admission to the fair; however, grandstand seating to concerts was free with a purchase of general fair admission – on a first come/first served basis. Also exciting fairgoers was the Demolition Derby.
As Jacobs attests, new attractions were indeed a draw. The Backyard served up indie craft beer, local wines, and the chance to play bocce ball, corn hole, Jenga, and more. So too were the entertainment options, including free grandstand seating to the Palmdale Auto Mall Concert Series, the Figure 8 race, and Rural Olympics & Fireworks show. The Rural Olympics is an iconic fair event, where viewers can see such competitions as hay hauling. And there were a variety of interactive events, also free, that resonated with fair attendees, such as the hypnotism experience by Suzy Haner the Hypnotist, dance performances throughout the fair, and the 80s Flashback party, with its extremely popular photo booth. The event featured all-80s drinks, music, and a limited-edition 80s themed T-shirt reading “Holy Cow We’re 80 Now.”
Also free at the fair: pig races, petting zoo, and the Goat Mountain animal attraction. Balloon animals, a wine-tasting at The Backyard, and even a chance to get hypnotized were also free and popular with attendees, according to media rep Melissa Duenas.
On the carnival, new rides such as the Endeavor took center stage. The carnival itself was provided by Ray Cammack Shows.
Not an attraction exactly – but attractive for patrons to use, was the Antelope Valley Fair app. From maps and vendor lists to surveys and the ability to vote for favorite food items, the free app, which was available at Google Play and Apple iTunes was a big help to fair goers. Technology also played a part in promoting the fair, using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Those favorite food votes were an especially enjoyed aspect of the app. Voters named the best fair food overall as coming from the 4-H Booth, with the French fries offered by 4H a particular hit; best beverage the Texas Twister multi-fruit drink, and best fair dessert, the classic Funnel Cake, which offered a variety of flavor choices including with chocolate, and with strawberries and whipped cream.
“The Antelope Valley Fair has a long tradition of providing fun and opportunities for every generation,” CEO Jacobs asserts. And 80-years marks just the beginning.