Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 19, 2018

Tehachapi Festival: Street Food and Streamline Moderne

Tehachapi, California is a city of about 13,000 people at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. It’s primarily a farming town, and that includes a significant number of fruit orchards, a major crop there.

The town got a major boost when the Santa Fe Railroad line opened in 1876, with a depot for passenger and freight traffic. The depot closed in 1971, but a restoration stands on the original site, and is a railroad museum. Conditions prevented me from photographing the exterior, but here I am in the former freight room with a museum docent.

Docent BN M Vincent 2346 680

We went to Tehachapi to see the town’s annual Apple Festival, celebrating one of the area’s most important products. The affair was a classic small town Autumn festival.

Tehachapi festival Brad Nixon 4257 680

Street festivals can be a mixed blessing for towns. They draw visitors in the thousands —  sometimes tens of thousands. Typically only a small portion of the visitors go into local shops; they can’t even see them, obscured by festival booths on the street.

Tehachapi festival Brad Nixon 4285 680

Local restaurants and gas stations may do well enough, but clothing, hardware and other stores don’t get much of a bump.

Here’s Tehachapi’s location, about a 2-1/2 hour drive north of Los Angeles (on a good day).

Tehachapi map Google

We were a bit disappointed in the festival, although it was interesting. Only a handful of local fruit growers had a presence, and we’d expected to find tons of apples, fresh from the orchard. The Apple Festival was primarily crafts displays, local organization information booths and typical fair food, not apples.

Festival food Brad Nixon 4298 680

Why, yes. That’s a hot dog surrounded by a spiral-cut potato and grilled — or maybe deep-fried — accompanied by split hot dogs grilled to look like little octopi. No, that cholesterol disaster is NOT mine. I was happy to simply shoot pictures.

Grill meat Brad Nixon 4248 680

Street food Brad Nixon 4299 680

Several times during the day, the town’s railroad heritage showed up in the form of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train rolling through the crossing at the end of Green Street.

Tehachapi festival Brad Nixon 4252 680

We did get a look at Tehachapi beyond the festival scene. The town has a telltale pattern: numerous gaps where buildings obviously once stood, and the architecture even in the oldest parts of town lacks any period style continuity. That’s a hallmark of towns that’ve suffered a disaster of some sort. I think of Roseburg, Oregon, where 30 blocks of the town were leveled or damaged when an explosives truck blew up there in 1959. Hundreds of towns show similar results from flood or fire that destroyed buildings on a large scale. Some were replaced in newer styles inconsistent with the earlier architecture, while others were never rebuilt, particularly if the disaster occurred after a town’s prime growth had occurred.

Tehachapi’s disaster was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 1952 that wrecked a considerable portion of town. The walking tour available from the Tehachapi Museum lists several locations as the “former site of” historic structures.

Fortunately, many buildings survived, including three interesting examples of Streamline Moderne architecture from the 1930s. Their cast concrete structures withstood the temblor that shook down many brick and frame buildings. Since I’ve mentioned the museum, I’ll start there.

Tehachapi Museum Brad Nixon 4260 680

There’s a southwestern Pueblo-style flair to the 1932 building, which was built as the town’s library.

Tehachapi museum Brad Nixon 4264 680

The interior still shows the configuration it owes to its origin as a library, although it’s difficult to discern details amidst the exhibits that fill the floor space and line the walls. The collection is relatively small but spans a considerable amount of time and a variety of historical themes. There’s a gallery dedicated to the Kawaiisu tribe of Native Americans who occupied the area before European settlers arrived. Worth a look when you’re there. 310 S. Green St.

A contemporary building, from 1932, is the BeeKay Theatre.

Beekay Tehachapi Brad Nixon 4308 680

Originally a movie house, the building had a checkered history after it stopped showing films in the late 1970s. Then building burned in 1997, leaving the concrete shell, although revealing the Art Deco styling that had been covered for at least a few decades. The city and its community theater group sponsored an ambitious reconstruction, including the recreation of the original marquee and what had been Tehachapi’s first neon sign. It now seats 120 instead of the original 312, and hosts the community theater productions. The interior was apparently never ornate, but is compact and comfortable. Even moderately skilled actors could make themselves heard, unamplified. 108 S. Green St.

We strolled one block west of Green to Curry Street, which shows the wide, unoccupied spaces attributable to the quake. One remaining structure catches the eye immediately.

Tehachapi IOOF Brad Nixon 2355 680

Thanks to the local Heritage League’s plaque outside, I learned it was also constructed in the early 1930s by the local International Order of Odd Fellows. That recess above the door would certainly once have announced “I.O.O.F.,” a familiar name in towns across America.

I have no other details than that the building’s durability has earned it an impressive list of tenants, including labor hall, dance hall, movie theater, church hall and hotel, to mention only a few. It’s now a shelter operated by a local philanthropy, and I didn’t get a look inside. 112 S. Curry St.

Obviously, Tehachapi was growing in the early ’30s, despite the Depression. It’s interesting that of the three structures above, only the Museum building might have been built with WPA funds. The other two were privately funded. That’s no mean accomplishment in an era when farms were being foreclosed and farming communities suffered as severely as the rest of the nation. Perhaps Tehachapi’s ranchers and farmers did a little better than the norm.

I enjoyed my brief visit to Tehachapi, and look forward to seeing more of the town when the festival isn’t booming. I still need a photo of that depot.

High resolution versions of most photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Special thanks to the friendly, informative conversations with our docent at the Tehachapi Depot Museum, the volunteers of the Tehachapi Heritage League at the Tehachapi Museum and members of the Tehachapi Community Theatre who showed us their fine old playhouse. Map © Google with my emendations.


  1. That was interesting to read Bead as we are going to an apple festival tomorrow for the first time. Also I was interested to read about the Santa Fe railroad as my son is going to Santa Fe next week – but realised that it must be a different Santa Fe as he is going to New Mexico!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m certain there’s a law in England, probably dating to Norman times, that any food-themed festival must have a certain percentage of its exhibits devoted to said viand, upon penalty of royal (now legislative) ire.
      I’m certain your son will enjoy Santa Fe. Food suggestions: The Shed, Pascual’s, and drive down the road to The Range in Bernalillo for the BEST blue corn enchiladas.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting read. I like going to small town festivals when I’m able. Our town just had the “Red Hot Car Show and Chili Cookoff” which drew quite a crowd. We used to also have the “Round Barn Festival,” which sadly seems to have been eliminated.

    I was particularly interested in the railroad and the fact that the festival was so near the tracks. You will understand my interest with the next Dewey Hop post. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, man, a Round Barn Festival would be bodacious. Are there a number of them in the Rochester area? And it’s National Chili Month, NOT that one needs an excuse for a chili cookoff. I look forward to your post. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, there are quite a few round barns in Fulton County. During the Round Barn Festival there used to be tours of them. A round barn building is at a golf course right in town. Another round barn is just outside of town at the Fulton County Museum – along with several other historical buildings. In additon to these, there are still round barns on some private properties in the area.

        I agree that one does not need an excuse for good chili! The library sponsers a chili booth every year and competes with other local groups and businesses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Man, one more reason for me to go to Fulton County whenever I make it back to visit my brother outside of Indianapolis. Other than to see your library, of course. Stay tuned for the annual UWS chili recipe. We’ll be working on it this weekend.


      • That would be amazing for you to come visit. We are 2 hours north of Indy.

        I am looking forward to that chili recipe!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. Me, too. Don’t know yet what direction we’ll take on the recipe. All will be revealed. And I’ve looked at the map often enough in association with your comments that I think I could drive from Indy to Rochester without more than one or two glances at a map.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Straight up US 31 from Indy. It’s not the most scenic route, but when you get closer to us you will be able to see one of the round barns right off of the highway on the left. That one is particularly interesting because it has pictures of farm animals on it’s roof.

        Liked by 1 person


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m very interested in those old round/octagonal/hexagonal/etc. buildings. My parents lived in an 1840s hexagonal house in Ohio for a number of years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know of one round house in the area, but don’t don’t the history of it.


  4. I started thinking about the yearly festivals in my area, and started to laugh. There’s AlligatorFest across Galveston Bay, innumerable crawfish festivals (including a huge one in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana), a hummingbird festival near Corpus, and FeatherFest in Galveston. A non-nature related festival is Czhilispiel — a German/Czech chili festival in Flatonia — that was started to raise funds for a medical student. The town didn’t have a doctor, so they paid for his education, and in exchange he came back and served the town for far longer than the five years he’d agreed to.

    As far as I know, none of our festivals have any Streamline Moderne close by, although quite a few have evidence of damage left by hurricanes. I am curious about the name of the BeeKay theater. I couldn’t find anything about the history of the name on the pages I visited. I’m assuming it’s someone’s initials — maybe of the two former mayors who got the project started?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re precisely correct. B and K. I have their names in a brochure I picked up, and will get back to you.
      In addition to all the other lives one could lead, there are several that would include nothing but visiting local festivals. That would still require specialization, because you’d have to choose between festivals around food, history (and which eras), technology, transportation, nature, etc. I love “Czhilispiel” and will look it up. Is there really a place named Flatonia? It IS National Chili Month, after all, and I’ve yet to concoct or post this year’s recipe.
      I didn’t think of hurricane-devastated towns, reflecting my happy insulation from being around them. I probably SHOULD have mentioned the native circular storm of both your and my younger years — tornadoes. My town might still have a couple of gaps from the 1974 storm, but the real damage was in Xenia, where 35 people died and a huge chunk of the town was utterly destroyed. That portion of town is still immediately evident to the first time visitor. Obviously, hurricanes do the same thing along thousands of miles of coast.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting food at the festival, also that little theatre looks like a real gem. Does it show Independent Movies?


    • Only live theater productions there now. Hasn’t shown movies for a few decades.


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