Petroglyph Festival to return Saturday and Sunday Nov. 6,7

Petroglyph Festival to return Saturday and Sunday Nov. 6,7Despite setbacks from the pandemic, it appears that the 8th Annual Petroglyph Festival will once again provide an entertaining and informative weekend, Saturday, November 6 from 10am to 6pm and Sunday, November 7 from 10am to 4pm next to the Maturango Museum.

Just over an hour north of Lancaster, and east of Bakersfield, The Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is home to over 100,000 petroglyphs, or Native American rock art- the largest collection in the western hemisphere. Located inside the base, the 10,000 year-old art covers the walls of Little Petroglyph Canyon.

Andrew Diaz, Administrative Coordinator for the Ridgecrest Areas Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB), tells us, “I think it’s going to be a great event. We’re going to return with street fair crafts, Native American artists, speakers, basket weaving demonstrations, a full slate of performers on stage. We’ll also have a car show at Leroy Jackson Park to honor the veterans of Ridgecrest.” Also returning this year is the BLM with horses and burros. Bill Schonhorst returns with his authentic covered wagon from the 1800’s demonstrating old time coffee and biscuits.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and earthquake repairs on the base, there will not be tours of Little Petroglyph Canyon; however, archaeologist Dr. Alan Garfinkle Gold will lead tours through the replicas in Ridgecrest Petroglyph Park. Dr. Gold has been instrumental in guiding Diaz in reaching out to and enlisting Native Americans to participate. He has a deep understanding of Native American values and the festival wants to honor their values.

Cultural sensitivity and appreciation for Native Americans is an important aspect of the festival. “Everybody wanted to really channel in on focusing on Native Americans. This is my first year,” says Diaz. “I’ve heard that in the past it didn’t have that focus.” Lucek adds, “We’ve been told that tribes do not want others to profit from their culture. They don’t mind sharing their culture, they just want everybody to get it.” This year’s particpants include Terry Goedel, a Hoop Dancer from the Yakama/ Tulalip tribe, Kim Marcus, a Storyteller and Singer, Ram Dancers from the Havasupi Guardians of The Grand Canyon and Michael Folkert, Flute artist.

One can expect an interesting array of vendors. Diaz says, “We have nonprofits, people who will be selling things ranging from crafts to Indian tacos. The majority of the people from the Ridgecrest Farmers Market are coming down.” Local banks, non-profits and foundations will be on hand. Approximately 60 vendors have signed on, about 50% of previous years. Many vendors are no longer available due to the pandemic. Some have retired, sold their business, or are not comfortable traveling yet.

The roller coaster of the pandemic restrictions delayed planning the festival. Planning usually starts right after the festival and takes almost a year. This year the festival is being planned in just a few months. Doug Lucek, Film Commissioner for the RACVB, says, “We didn’t want to start getting this thing going and then all of a sudden the State shuts us down, we had to wait for the perfect storm.” The RACVB team decided, “We want this to stay for the community, to stay together.” Lucek adds, “We’re going to have bumpy roads, and this is one of them.

A lot of these festivals have been canceled all over. We’re kind of leading the group with this, but we’ll see. I think it’ll be a good crowd; people are tired of being pent up. They will want to get out to walk around, see the vendors and enjoy the performers.” Rest assured, all of the COVID-19 safety protocols will be observed with wash stations provided. Lucek adds, “It is outdoors which will make people more comfortable with attending.”

The RACVB, is currently accepting applications for those interested in participating as a vendor for the festival. Applications are available through rpfestival.com, and any questions can be directed to the RACVB office by phone.

Laura Austin photo: A car show at LeRoy Jackson Park during the Petroglyph Festival honors local veterans.

Story First Published: 2021-10-15