Much like the name of the festival that put a spotlight on Kern County, we captured a little lightning in a bottle in terms of entertainment and cultural events.
STREETS OF BAKERSFIELD
There's no questioning that country music, specifically the Bakersfield Sound, is part of Kern's DNA. We enjoyed another moment in the spotlight with the release of Ken Burns' PBS documentary "Country Music" in September.
The documentarian stopped by the Fox Theater in July to show a segment of the film, which, along with Bakersfield, recognized musical hot spots including Nashville, Houston and Austin.
Also paying tribute to our rich musical history was journalist Scott B. Bomar's epic "The Bakersfield Sound: Country Music Capital of the West, 1940-1974," which came out in October.
Bomar selected 299 tracks for the 10-CD boxed set put out by Bear Family Productions. If that's not enough, he penned a 224-page hardcover book to accompany it, perfect for perusing on a coffee table with its detailed stories and array of photos.
Two local events marked the set's release: Bomar's talk at Cal State Bakersfield and a CD release party at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace.
And Bakersfield Sound pioneer Fuzzy Owen also contributed to the country celebration this year with the release of his book "Merle Haggard, Bonnie Owens and Me." The 90-year-old musician collaborated with his pastor, Rev. Phil Neighbors, on the work chronicling his days playing honky-tonks like the Clover Club, the Lucky Spot and the Blackboard and his relationship with Bonnie Owens, who in between marriages to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
GAGA FOR GARTH
Also part of our local year in country was the hullabaloo surrounding the Aug. 15 Garth Brooks show at the Crystal Palace.
In this last-minute town, many sprung to action after the singer announced on July 29 that Bakersfield would be one of only seven stops on his "Dive Bar" tour. In a nod to his roots, Brooks credited small bars and country radio for his early success and said these shows would be in smaller venues and tickets would only be available via radio giveaways.
In what could only be described as summer madness, some made hundreds of calls to the KUZZ radio (or other stations in the state) for a chance at tickets to the 550-seat venue show.
Even those lucky enough to win tickets still showed up early and waited in 106-degree heat to get into the show.
DUST IN THE WIND
After 30 years, the annual Dust Bowl Festival ended in October with the event at Sunset School and Sunset Labor Camp. Citing the need for a break, organizers made the decision for this year's to be the last in its current form. They are confident the festival will return in some form, paying tribute to all those who fled Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas during the Dust Bowl, an ecological disaster that struck the southern Great Plains, to start over in California.
Those with a hunger for local Dust Bowl history can head over to the Kern County Museum, which dedicated its new Dust Bowl exhibit in October. The 2018 project of the Ellen Tracy Baker Guild, this exhibit features two original worker housing units, one from Sunset and the other from the Shafter Labor Camp.
This was a year for public art on a larger scale.
In April, Brazilian artist Arlin Graff brought a colorful kit fox to life on the south-facing wall between The BLVD and Temblor Brewing Co. The 28-foot-high work was made possible by the Bynum and Mazzei families. (David Bynum is CEO of The BLVD and brother Don is co-owner of Temblor.)
Early last month, international muralist Cobre, aka Andres Iglesias, painted a mural of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez at the northeast corner of 18th and L streets. The whirlwind of a project came together in a week thanks to nonprofit The Hub of Bakersfield.
And in October, artist JR created a temporary mural honoring 48 current and formerly incarcerated prisoners of the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.
Spanning more than half the square footage of a football field, the work was created with photos of the men and consisted of 338 strips of paper, installed by the subjects of the photo along with prison staff and the artist's team.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
Billed as a "transformational" event that highlights electronic dance, experimental and folk music — as well as exotic food, art projects, learning kitchens, yoga, meditation and more — the festival almost didn't find its new home at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area. Luckily county supervisors approved the five-day festival, which had last been held in Monterey County, for May.
About 20,000 people attended the event and — unlike the average holiday weekend visitors at our city parks — left the area as clean as they found it.
LIB will return next year, already slated for May 20 to 25, with tickets available at lightninginabottle.org.