The official party isn't until Sunday, but Merle Haggard wasn't big on rules, so why should his fans be?
That's precisely what the folks at Kern Pioneer Village are thinking as they plan for a much-bigger-than-usual Thursday, which happens to hold significance, good and bad, as the anniversary of the icon's birth and death.
"We're definitely expecting visitors," said museum curator Lori Wear. "Initially we were going to have an event here, but the family is attending an event in his honor in Nashville, so we're waiting for the festival."
As in the Haggard Boxcar Festival, which takes place Sunday.
Haggard's sons Ben and Noel highlight a day of entertainment and festivities planned around the main event: the first public tours of the Haggard family home, moved to the museum from its Oildale lot in 2015. The house now looks much like it did when young Merle was coming of age.
"It's very nearly done," Wear said of the home, which has been the subject of an ambitious restoration and construction project. "There are a few little things we need to do but it will be ready by Sunday."
Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and tours begin at noon. For the celebration, the partitions protecting most of the home will be opened, giving guests greater access to the house than they usually will have, Wear said.
Admission to Sunday's event is $20. Tickets are available at the museum or by calling 437-3330.
Guests headed to the museum Thursday will pay the standard admission of $10, but don't expect to get inside just yet, Wear said. Gates open at 10 a.m., but local television news crews are expected to broadcast from the house early Thursday morning.