By Lorraine Kay
August 2009 – The 2009 Antelope Valley Fair is coming to an end. There have been seven days of powerful music concerts and a week of fun for everyone of all ages. With just a few more days left, there is still plenty of fun available to those looking for a full day of good family entertainment.
Unfortunately, the attendance seemed down from past year’s events. The poor economy would seem to be the culprit to blame despite the fair’s efforts to make the event affordable for the community. For what should have been a source of distraction from the economic woes there seems to have been a large number of people that still are unable to put two nickels together. Or perhaps they have not heard that this year’s admission includes free seating for every concert and grandstand event. With the exception of Foreigner and Guess Who, full sections of the seating were empty including free seating sections.
Some things – food, carnival rides and the arcade games were without a doubt pricey, but the fair is not just about the carnival and vendors. Historically, the fair has been about a community coming together to share its achievements and personal victories over the previous year. And in 2009 it is still about blue ribbons and trophies. It is still about rows of little girls dancing to “The Lollypop Song” in tights, top hats and tap shoes or singing “Tomorrow” at the top of their longs, quite often quite off key, but to the pride of their adoring families.
Everywhere there was non-stop free entertainment by local and outside professional performers in every corner of the fairgrounds.
Everything from rock and roll bands and country bands, to soloists and acoustic music. Dance teams performed every kind of dance, and several groups of children tapped and pirouetted to their hearts’ content.
On the big stage the fair opened with a newcomer to the rock and roll scene. American Idol winner David Cook entertained an audience of all ages. A newbie to the public, Cook did a great job sending the crowd into wild cheers.
Saturday began the step backwards into music history welcoming 60’s bands “War” and “Tower of Power” to the stage. Presenting their own style of funk, R & B and soul, both bands still packed a wallop in their music. Still some of the tightest and danceable music on the planet, they did not let up one bit on the audience, driving their peers, now in their 60s and 50s to rise to the occasion and dance.
Tuesday and Wednesday took major steps back through the “Way-back Machine”. Tuesday featured 1960s icon “The Beach Boys” and Pablo Cruise. Even without complete original line-ups of the original members of both bands the music still took the audience down memory lane. The Beach Boys performed an incredible 30 songs featuring original lead singer Mike Love.
Foreigner and Guess Who offered much of the same for their audience, a nearly sold-out crowd. Nearly all new band members still kept the signature sound on the iconic songs under the leadership of original member, Mick Jones,
Guess Who took the crowd back to Woodstock with the rock and roll anthem “American Woman”. An hour of the 60s most memorable songs filled the arena to the pleasure of the band’s faithful fans.
It was close to listening to the original recordings with Lou Gramm when Foreigner hit the stage. Although it is impossible to replace the original lead singer 100%, Kelly Hanson, who joined the group in 2006 made a good stab at it. Hanson had the chops when he joined the group then, but no grit, Gramm’s signature approach to the band’s songs. But during Weds. Night’s event Hanson proved he is smoothly growing into Graham’s shoes strutting a confidence and stage presence that was lacking when he was the new kid on the block, as if he was channeling Gramm. The crowd was awestruck by the similarity. Gone is the pretty boy/soap opera star look of 2006, enter rock and roller of 2009.
All seven nights were great concerts and well worth the ticket prices. Seating in the new grandstands offered a great view of the stage no matter where you sat. A new handicapped seating section behind the dignitary seating was a welcome addition to those in wheelchairs and those unable to make the steep climb up the bleacher stairs. In another venue even the cheapest seats would have cost upward of $35, but this weeks seats were free. And every evening the band gave their all to the fans.
The fair is a community event. Local service organizations offered great food and interesting displays. Groups like the Kiwanis that offered a down home barbecue to die for with a plate piled high with tri-tip, lamb chops and chicken, homemade beans and salad. Not to mention lots of lemonade and ice tea all for one price all cooked and prepared and served by locals organization members and their families.
The low admission price this year, not only offered all a grandstand seat to each night’s main event, but free admission to all the displays and seating to each of the other stage events. Of main interest to many locals were the livestock auctions and judging and produce judging. Winners’ prize winning animals and produce were on display for all to view.
The pavilions offered vendors with some of the latest in technology and fun things to buy. Also on display in the pavilions are the entries of locals of their craft creations, cooking, art, and collections and more. Just as they did nearly 100 years ago, rows of jars of old-fashioned canned preserves, fruits and vegetables are displayed with labels and the names of their creators, as with every food entry. Beautiful quilts display the craftsmanship of some traditional and precise needlework. Everywhere you can look there is a triumph of come individual committed to preserving a simpler lifestyle.
The local photo club offers a gallery of some of the finest local amateur photographers of all ages. Everything from portraits, wedding photos, animal photos and travel photos to experimental close-ups and examples of new technology were mounted and hanging on rows upon rows of photos with a display to challenge even the most elite galleries.
The fair has always been about a sense of accomplishment to locals – four and five generations of families have competed in every area, year after year. Some plan from year to year, beginning preparations a week after closing day for the next year’s entries. Cooks and bakers start experimenting with improving their recipes to clinch a blue ribbon next year. Artists begin creating next year’s entries, that one incredible masterpiece. Farmers and ranchers begin caring for the produce and livestock to ensure another blue ribbon win next year. Photographers set out to take that special photo and catch something new and wonderful in their view finder.
If you have not yet been to this year’s fair, there is still time. The closes Labor Day evening. There are still great events and fun in which to take part. Tickets are still available for most events and the fun goes on.