Fruits and veggies at Harvest Heritage Day

Celebrate Harvest Heritage Day at the Museum


A crew stacks hay on a ranch in Round Valley in the early years of the 20th Century.  Eastern California Museum Photo Illustration by Sky Hatter.

Crisp mornings and shorter days mean fall is in the air and, with luck plenty of produce that grew green in local gardens is in the cupboard. One fun way to share the your agricultural bounty is to bring both odd and edible produce, plus anything you can bake, can or pickle using said produce, to the third  annual Harvest Heritage Day at the Eastern California Museum.

The free event will allow local gardeners and bakers a chance to show off some of the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor in the garden and orchard this summer. The organizers of the Harvest Heritage Day will be highlighting fresh produce from local gardens for the Garden to Table section of the event, and also be asking local bakers to bring autumn-themed baked goods, such as zucchini or pumpkin bread or other treats, like apple cobbler, to share.

Those wishing to get rid of large, odd-shaped squash or monster zucchini can bring the items to the “vegetable dressing” table, and either dress up the produce themselves, or get some expert help, and the proper clothing, to make that monster gourd gorgeous, or that cute potato downright darling.

The public is invited to the free event, which will commence at 1 p.m. and continue until 5 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Eastern California Museum, 155 N. Grant St., in Independence (three blocks west of the historic courthouse). The Friends of the Eastern California Museum are sponsoring the fun.

Besides the garden-variety fun, here will also be a number of other activities, events and demonstrations.

For the smaller harvesters, there will be a variety of kids’ crafts and events, including pumpkin painting, a spoon puppet show, being able to make their own butter(which should go well with some homemade bread) and demonstrations of how folks used to do laundry “in the old days.”

Big kids who like things that make noise and sputter and roar should enjoy the vintage engines that will be on the museum grounds. A volunteer crew from the Laws Museum will bring the small engines and gadgets down and crank them up or fire them up or steam them up, depending on the gadget in question.

Besides all the healthy produce and baked goods, there will also be free, All-American hot dogs available to even out all the healthy foods. Beverages will also be provided to wash everything down.

New this year is Bountiful Bingo, which gives participants a chance to play agricultural-related bingo and win some excellent prizes donated by local businesses.

Local musicians will be roaming the museum grounds, serenading the crowd and providing a musical backdrop to the day.

The “Autumn Bread Competition” is more of a chance to share favorite family recipes than a competition. Bakers are invited to create a favorite veggie- or fruit-themed bread, such as zucchini, pumpkin, carrot, etc., to be judged then shared with the hungry crowd. Everyone is encouraged to bring home made baked goods with a fall theme to the festival. Apple pies and cobblers, peach pie, cookies and other goodies, including jams, jellies, relishes and the like, will gladly be displayed and then shared with the festival-goers.

There will also be a “Garden to Table” tasting table, featuring a variety of fresh produce grown green in local gardens (of course, local gardeners will have to bring in a share of their harvest to share to load up the table).

One of the more unique aspects of the event will be the “dressed vegetable” display. Local gardeners can bring their over-sized vegetables, such as squash, pumpkins or zucchini, and dress them up in the festive clothing that will be available to help cover the “naked” veggies. For those who don’t usually dress up their vegetables, members of the Independence Civic Club will bring their “dressed vegetables” to the event, and provide help in mastering the art of putting clothes on large and small food items. Oh, and dressing vegetables isn’t just for vegetables, since fruits, such as apples or peaches and other garden fare are also fair game for “dressing.”

The Harvest Heritage Day event is free to the public and is fashioned after the Harvest Festivals held in each town in the Owens Valley in the early 20th Century. Towns would have parades with floats featuring local produce and the output of local farms. Music, dances, barbeques, bingo and a day of fun were all part of those historical harvest celebrations. The Museum and the Friends of the Eastern California Museum are reviving this rich tradition of celebrating the coming fall season and admiring the bounty of the growing season in the valley.

For example, a 1911 postcard touting the “First Annual Harvest Festival, Bishop Ca.” promised attendees “a day of jollification” and celebration in “the Owens Valley, the land of plenty.”

This weekend, the Eastern California Museum will try to provide the public another “day of jollification” during the Harvest Heritage Day: Celebrating Autumn in the Owens Valley.

Call the Museum at 760-878-0258 for more information about Harvest Heritage Day.



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