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Antelope Valley Fair’s roots go back to 1895, when the Antelope Valley Association sponsored a two-day celebration for area ranchers and farmers. The first organized Harvest Festival took place in 1931, featuring Hollywood entertainers. In 1934, a “field day” was held with competitions among local ranchers and farmers at the LancasterHigh School football field. The competitions in following years featured friendly contests between Eastsiders and Westsiders, including women, in cow milking, hay loading and others. This was the forerunner to the Rural Olympics that is the fair’s signature event.

The Antelope Valley Fair Association was formed September 1, 1938 and held its first meeting on December 5, 1938. At this meeting the Association officers were authorized to purchase eighty acres of land at a total price of $2,800, the terms being $1,000 down, with the balance to be paid at the rate of $300 per year. Of course, the problem that immediately arose was the lack of funds to purchase the land. All the ranchers in the Valley were approached and each donated a ton of hay. The truckers of the Valley hauled the hay to Lancaster, and the merchants of the Valley made cash contributions toward the fund. Hay buyers from all over Southern California were invited to come up and bid on the hay to the highest bidder. Mr. Henry Clark of Bakersfield was asked to auction the hay to the highest bidder. With the funds raised, the grounds were purchased. Those grounds were the home of the fair until September 2003 when it moved to its new quarters on Avenue H at the freeway.

The Antelope Valley Fair Association was incorporated on September 12, 1938 with the following signers of the incorporation papers: George Rush, Lloyd Mikelson, Jesse Romine, D.R. Jaqua and Tom Foley. After operating as the Antelope Valley Fair Association for three years, and having full community cooperation in erecting the original buildings, it was deemed advisable to become an Agricultural Association under the Division of Fairs and Expositions, State of California. With the help of many individuals and organizations of the Valley working with State Legislators to make possible, on September 13, 1941, the 50th District Agricultural Association became operative. The fair was originally a four-day event until 1959, then a five-day event until 1972, then a six-day event until 1981, and is now a eleven-day event.

There is a single event that sets the Antelope Valley Fair apart from other fairs. An event that is a part of our culture and heritage. That event is known as the Rural Olympics.

Rural Olympics

An Antelope Valley Fair Signature Event

Midway through the depression, Antelope Valley ranchers and truck drivers, headed by Donald Jaqua Sr., assembled in the Antelope Valley High School sports field and challenged each other to hay loading contests and truck and tractor driving skills. Whether these challengers and organizers knew an Antelope Valley tradition was born or not is a matter of conjecture. But what is officially the Rural Olympics today is the direct result of these Alfalfa Festival antics.

The Rural Olympics has been a part of the Antelope Valley Fair for many years and is totally unique to its high desert community. It continues to attract local, national and even international excitement as ranchers toss heavy bales of hay around like they were pillows, truck drivers zip around obstacles and race back into narrow chutes, women whip farm tractors around like tricycles and 5,000 people cheer on helmeted auto races… albeit stock Model “T” Fords that hardly match Daytona Raceway speeds.

Even people who have a difficult time fathoming the meaning of rural get just as excited as those who haven’t missed a Rural Olympics since its infancy. There’s no single place, except at the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, where these events can be seen and experienced.

Rural Olympics Events Include:
Hay Baling
Antique Car Potato Race
Youth Tug-of-War
East/West Tug-of-War
Hay Loading
Farmer’s Handicap
Antique Tractor Race
Tractor Race – Men
Tractor Race – Women
Hay Squeeze
Model “T” Race
Tractor & Semi-Trailer Backing
Truck & Trailer Backing
Mechanical Hay Loading
Gravel Truck Transfer

March 30, 2010 Posted by | ANTELOPE VALLEY FAIR, Rural Olympics | , | Leave a comment