Pahrump’s Granddad of Festivals: a long-standing tradition
The one thing I loved about the town of Pahrump is that there always seems to be something going on, especially when the temperatures come down in September. When the cooler weather comes, the town becomes like an ant hill and there is buzz of activity.
Whether it’s the farmers market on Saturday, in the middle of the town at Draft Picks sports bar or some kind of rodeo at the McCullough Arena. And when Pahrump is in festival mode the whole town gets into it. It seems all the different parts of Pahrump comes out to celebrate, young and old.
Out of all the festivals in town, the Fall Festival is the biggest one of the year and historically is the first one. The four-day festival is held annually on the third week of September, starting on a Thursday and continuing until Sunday. This festival goes back to the town’s roots, which is Western in nature but more on the ranching and farming side.
Pahrump has a ranching history, and therefore it is appropriate that it celebrates this history with a rodeo. If you love fast bucking bulls and broncos and cowboy action then this festival is for you.
The celebration is held at Petrack Park at the center of town off of Highway 160 and Basin Avenue and has over 50 years of history. It is currently organized by the Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The history of the Fall Festival
The first ones were a celebration of a good harvest, and people just formed a circle on some land with some trucks. That served as an arena, and then they would see who the best riders were.
Those were the earliest festivals. Then they became more organized and centered around gymkhana and rodeo events.
Lisa Hamrick, daughter of Tim Hafen, who was a large cotton grower and one of the founders of modern Pahrump, grew up in the seventies and eighties and remembers that there were a lot of contests for kids back then.
“I remember there being a cowhide contest,” she said. ”That race is simple. A kid would lie on a cowhide and would be pulled behind a horse. It was a lot of fun.”
Long time resident of Pahrump and a long time mail carrier, Betty Lacomb recalls going to her first Fall Festival 50 years ago.
“People came out to have fun,” Betty said. “There were gymkhana events for the kids, cowhide races for the kids and trailer races for the adults. I even remember there used to be a horse track and they had quarter-mile horse races.”
She said the festival was small, for there were only 350 people out here when she moved here.The festival was only a day long.
The horse races may be gone, but the festival remains and is stronger than ever.
From these early beginnings, the event slowly evolved into a standard rodeo and what we have today. Although today’s rodeo is a professional rodeo, many local cowboys from Pahrump still sign up for it. Some tell me the festival is too big and has lost its home town feel. I disagree; you just have to look harder for it.
What I like about today’s festival is it still keeps some of its small town flare by having the local 4-H put on chicken poop bingo and other contests for the kids. The Pahrump kids make the festival. And local bands still provide the entertainment.
In today’s festival there are some 200 vendors that come from all over to display their wares. The local politicians come out to drum up votes, and there are games and a heck of a lot of good food. Many of the vendors are still from Pahrump, and the town’s restaurants are also out there selling food.
The Fall Festival draws nearly 75,000 people from all over to the town. It packs the town for the 4-day celebrations, selling out all 418 rooms. So if you need lodging you have to book early. Hotels full? Try one of the RV Parks. For more info on lodging click here.
A parade, too!
The festival also has a parade and an arts and crafts show. The parade is on Saturday and will have a variety of bands and floats from the town. The art show is a mix of local artists and even students.
The festival is best enjoyed by just hauling a camp chair over to the lush green grass at the park, sitting down and cracking open your favorite beverage, while taking in the local sights and sounds. Enjoy.
— Vernon Hee