The music and spirit of Merle Haggard was alive and well at the Kern County Museum on Saturday.
The museum hosted the third-annual Haggard Boxcar Music Festival, named after the railcar converted by Haggard’s father into their family home. The event included performances by two of Haggard’s sons, Ben and Noel, along with a slew of other performers.
In addition to the music, the event included tours of the boxcar home, which was moved to the museum in 2015. It was restored and opened to the public in April 2017 for the first Boxcar Music Festival. There were also plenty of food and vendors selling various merchandise.
“I love it. I’ve been looking forward to it all year,” said Ken Dickinson. “I like the music and hanging out with other people. I run in to a lot of my friends and co-workers here. It’s a great time to get out of the house and enjoy Bakersfield.”
Dale Rains and his wife came from Lindsay to attend Saturday's festival, particularly to see Mo Pitney, who they are big fans of.
“We love real country music. We love the Bakersfield Sound,” he said.
Rains said he also likes that the festival is being held at the Kern County Museum, which he believes is a good venue for concerts.
“I’ve supported the Kern County Museum when I lived here for 35 years,” he said. “When we come down and visit, we try to support this place as much as we can. It’s a tremendous benefit to the community of Bakersfield and Kern County.”
Rains said he’s a big fan of Merle Haggard, having grown up with his music after his father fell in love with his music.
“He’s the best thing to ever come down the pike in Kern County,” he said. “If you’ve lived in California and didn’t grow up with Merle Haggard’s music, you just didn’t get the memo.”
Anthony Olivieri came to the festival for the first time to see his son Alec perform as part of the band Truxton Mile.
“I decided to come out and see what it’s all about,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to bring a lot of like-minded folks out here to listen to great music, support the museum.”
Olivieri said he’s also a Merle Haggard fan and was looking forward to his sons perform.
“I appreciate Merle’s music and writing ability. He’s one of the legends of country music to be sure,” he said.
Attendee Phyllis Sims said it’s important that there are events like these around to help keep the music and legacy of Haggard alive and expose it to new generations.
“(Merle) was of an era that has a lot of history. He was always entertaining and his songs told stories,” she said. “You have to keep people interested, or all the legends will disappear.”