“Our State Fair is a Great State Fair. Don’t Miss it, Don’t Even be Late (our state fair is great)”
—From the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “State Fair”
Everybody loves the fair. The carousel, Ferris wheel, funnel cakes, cotton candy and churros have delighted generations for decades, and this year promises to be one of the best ever. The 75th annual Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, scheduled from Aug. 16-25, is one of the nation’s authentic “country-style” fairs that remind visitors of a more simple time void of the busy, stressful demands of the urban life and features some of the most popular and romantic aspects of the beloved midway carnival rides, culinary delights and livestock.
“Family, community and agricultural education is what the AV Fair is all about,” said Ron Emard, president of the Antelope Valley Fair Association board of directors. “This year’s fair will again provide wholesome family entertainment, educational opportunities and the chance to participate on many levels. Our fair features one of the largest Junior Livestock programs in the state. And don’t miss out on the rides, games and delicious food. This year’s fair theme is: ‘Diamonds are FAIR-ever!’ at the 75th annual Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival.’”
The popular Grandstand Arena will host the Palmdale Auto Mall Concert Series, offering everything from Country and Western, Banda and Blues, to Hip-Hop, Pop and Heavy Metal. Here’s a look at some of the world-famous headliners scheduled for 7:30 each evening (excluding the Aug. 18 show) at the outdoor venue:
• First up on Aug. 16 is Country star Darius Rucker, who will share the night with singer Ann Marie. Formerly of the popular crossover band Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker is one of few African American country artists since Herb Jeffries (a singing cowboy), Charlie Pride or Ray Charles to earn worldwide acclaim. The South Carolina native hit the charts in the early 1990s when the band produced five studio albums, earning six Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
Rucker co-wrote the majority of the band’s songs with his three college friends Mark Bryan, Jim “Soni” Sonefeld and Dean Felber. In 2002, Rucker released a solo R&B album that didn’t earn the acclaim he’d expected. Unsatisfied with the public response, Rucker decided to make a major change for a Black artist—perform Country & Western. In 2008, he signed with Capitol Records Nashville, releasing the album Learn to Live and saw the single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” reach No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs list. That was followed by two more No. 1 singles, “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright.”
In 2009, Rucker became the first African American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association, and is only the second Black person to win an award from the association. Ann Marie is an R&B singer popular for the songs “1 Thing,” “Nothing Like Lovin’ You” and “Why Don’t We Fall in Love?”
• Foreigner, known for hard-rocking ballads with a nod toward R&B, will appear with Caitlin Crosby on Aug. 17. The British band has had a string of hits since the late 1970s, when its debut and self-titled album sold more than 4 million copies, staying in the top 20 for a year with such hits as “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home.”
The second and third albums were even more successful, spawning the hits “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Head Games” and “Dirty White Boy.” The fourth album saw a move toward R&B and Gospel with the inclusion of a saxophone solo by the late Junior Walker on the song “Urgent,” and, in 1985, collaboration with the New Jersey Mass Choir on the hit single “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Though the lineup has changed drastically over the years, lead vocalist Lou Gramm is one of the most famous “Rock voices” on Top 40 radio.
Caitlin Crosby is a relatively new musical act, though she is probably known among the teen and “tween” audience for her recurring role as Amy on the MTV show “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.”
• Banda el Recodo takes the stage at 6 p.m. on Aug. 18. The Mexican ensemble is one of the most famous “Sinaloense” (from the Mexican state of Sinaloa on the Gulf of California coastline) groups and traces its roots back to 1938. Today, the band consists of four clarinets, three trumpets, a tambora (bass drum with a cymbal on top), a tarola (snare drum), a tuba, three trombones and two singers, performing traditional Banda (Mexican folk) ballads. Banda Los Recoditos will be the opening act.
• Sheryl Crow and Weston Burt appear on Aug. 19. Since her 1993 debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, Sheryl Crow has become one of the music industry’s most popular singer/songwriters. Her repertoire extends from Pop, Rock and Country & Western, to Gospel and even motion picture scores. Over the past 20 years, Crow has sold more than 17 million albums in the U.S. and more than 50 million worldwide, while receiving nine Grammy Awards (out of 32 nominations).
That first album produced the hit singles “All I Wanna Do” and “Strong Enough,” selling 7 million units to earn Crow three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Female Vocal Performance. In 1997, Crow contributed the theme song to the James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” while her 1999 album, My Favorite Mistake, won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.
Weston Burt, a Country artist, is known for his new hit single “Lucky Sometimes.”
• George Thorogood and the Destroyers, and Buddy Guy, will bring the Blues to town on Aug. 20. In 1976, Thorogood and the Destroyers left the East Coast club scene and released Better Than the Rest, a collection of rock ’n’ roll, blues and “Rockabilly” tunes at a time when Disco was king. Their next album, Move It on Over, not only covered the famous Hank Williams hit, but included cover versions of hits by some of Thorogood’s boyhood idols, including Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Bo Diddley.
By 1982, Thorogood’s slide guitar sound was heard around the world on the smash hit “Bad to the Bone,” a song further popularized in the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi thriller “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Among the group’s other hits are “I Drink Alone,” “Let’s Work Together,” “Haircut” and “Ride ’Til I Die.” Along the way, the group has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, with two of the releases certified platinum and two that achieved gold status.
Buddy Guy, along with B.B. King, is among the remaining Blues artists who once traveled the old “Chitlin’ Circuit” which, from the 1930s through early 1970s, ran from the Deep South through Memphis, Tenn., Kansas City, Mo., Chicago and Detroit. Though years younger than contemporaries like King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins or Willie Dixon, Guy went to Chicago from Lettsworth, La., in the mid 1960s and signed with legendary producer Leonard Chess of Chess Records. In fact, Guy was a member of the Muddy Waters band and was a house guitarist at Chess Records, heard on the Howlin’ Wolf song “Killing Floor” and Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle.”
Guy has influenced just about every “guitar hero” heard on the radio, including the late Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Ernie Isley, Joe Walsh, Prince and Eddie Van Halen. Now 77, Guy, who often will take the stage donning the simple bib overalls of his humble youth, still tours worldwide with his polka dot Fender Stratocaster, performing his most famous songs such as “Hoodoo Man Blues” (1965), “I Left My Blues in San Francisco” (1967), “First Time I Met the Blues” (1969), “Breaking Out” (1988), “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” (1991), Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix (a 1993 album featuring a cover of “Red House”) and Living Proof, a 2010 release that won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
• British rockers Whitesnake will end the concert series on Aug. 21. Founded in 1978 by David Coverdale of Deep Purple fame, Whitesnake will perform songs from a string of U.K. Top 10 albums, including Ready An’ Willing (1980), Come An’ Get It (1981) and Slide It In from 1984. Their biggest singles are “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love?” from their 1987 self-titled album.
Concert series tickets range from $15 to $75 and are not included with general admission. Also, the RV park at the fairgrounds will be closed Aug. 12-25.
The Rally Kia Arena will host a “monster truck” rally at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, a demolition derby at 6 p.m. Aug. 25, and the popular Rural Olympics at 6 p.m. Aug. 24. The Rural Olympics is one of the original community events at the Antelope Valley Fair, featuring tractor pulls, hay-baling, hog-calling and cow-milking contests. The Rural Olympics will also include an antique car “potato race,” a Model T race, truck and trailer backing, a farmer’s handicap and mechanical hay loading. Grandstand seating is free with general admission.
There are a number of special days scheduled this year for area seniors, children, military personnel and the disabled. Parking and admission to the fair is free from 4 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 16, including a ticket for a free ride and one free game.
The Rotary Club of Lancaster will have a book drive from 2 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17 and 24. On those days, visitors are granted free admission and one free ride if they bring one new or three “gently used” children’s books to the main gate.
The Grace Resources Canned Food Drive takes place on Aug. 18 and 25. Here, guests are admitted free and can receive a voucher for a free ride if they bring five cans of food to the main gate between 2 and 4 p.m.
Kids day, senior day and “special needs day” are all scheduled for Aug. 19 when children 11 years and under are admitted free; seniors 62 years and older will not be charged, nor will persons who require a caregiver be charged. Seniors can ride the carousel and Ferris wheel all day, while a free lunch (while supplies last) will be served from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Also, a “seniors only” discount will be available at selected concession stands. Special needs guests can also dine on a free lunch from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
The Kiwanis Jr. Livestock Auction is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 22 at the R. Rex Parris Show Arena, preceded by an “auction buyers” breakfast at 8 a.m. A barbecue will take place later that day at 6 at Heritage Park, priced at $10 per guest. For details, call (661) 948-6060.
The Antelope Valley Fair can be traced back as far as 118 years when the Antelope Valley Association sponsored a two-day celebration for area ranchers and farmers. The tradition continued until 1931 when the first “Harvest Festival” took place and, three years later, a special “field day” was held featuring competitions among local ranchers and farmers at the old Antelope Valley High School football field. City officials were looking for an appropriate spot to build the fairgrounds and, through donations and numerous fundraisers they bought the land near the old high school and the fair took place there until September 2003 when the new location opened near the freeway at Avenue H.
Among the local county fairs, Orange County has five years on the Antelope Valley (beginning in Santa Ana in 1890, and moving to Costa Mesa in 1949), while the popular Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona began in 1922. And like the Antelope Valley event, these fairs were originally a harvest festival for the bountiful agricultural crops in the region, effectively showcasing to the world the yearly bumper crop of vegetables and citrus fruits.
Pre-fair tickets for adults are available for $6 through Aug. 15 at 2551 W. Avenue H. For more details, call the fair box office at (661) 948-6060, ext. 230.
Regular hours for the fair are 4 p.m. to midnight Aug. 16-25, except for Aug. 19 when gates will open at 2 p.m. for seniors and special needs guests. Regular admission is $9 for persons 12 years and older, $7 for juniors 6 to 11 years, and $7 for seniors 62 years and older. Active military personnel are admitted free with a valid military ID. Parking is $5.
Tickets can be purchased online through Aug. 25 at avfair.com. Will-call tickets will be available at the fairgrounds administrative office, 2551 W. Avenue H, Suite 102. Tickets may be purchased from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 5-25 at the fairgrounds box office at the main entrance. During the fair, the box office will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. There will be no admittance, however, if tickets are purchased one hour before closing. Those tickets will be valid for the next day.
“On behalf of all the fair’s boards of directors, manager and staff,” Emard continued, “ I sincerely encourage you, your family and friends to attend the fair where you can count on having a great time.”