Have you ever seen 94-year-old Jo Nash dancing a two-step while wearing a lavender and white bonnet?

How about 90-year-old local guitar legend Tommy Hays pickin' to Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" along with a stageful of other local country music pioneers?

Have you ever talked with 87-year-old Eual Seay about coming to Kern County during the height of the Great Depression to live in the tiny oil town of Fellows?

If you attended the 30th annual Dust Bowl Festival at Sunset School in Weedpatch on Saturday, you may well have done all three.

"This is such a big part of our history," said Mark Sharman, who is active with the local group Citizens Preserving History, which spearheaded the effort to relocate the Merle Haggard boxcar house to the Kern County Museum.

The Dust Bowl Migration, he said, not only transplanted thousands of Americans from the South and Midwest to California, it helped transplant an entire culture, in music, in food, in attitude.

And the festival has been a celebration of that economic and cultural migration for three decades.

But organizers say this is the last year the festival will be held, at least in its current form.

"We're hoping we see this again, but smaller," Sharman said. "Next year or the year after."

It’s an educational opportunity for locals and visitors to learn about local history, said attendee Sarah Pramanik. As the old wisdom notes, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

"If you're not aware of what happened before ... it's going to happen again," she said.

Ruth Young, Pramanik's grandmother, agreed, noting that the Okies and Arkies who came to the valley looking for work were not welcomed by many locals already living here — as if the folks who had already put down roots had some sort of moral superiority over the newcomers.

"The people who were here already," she said, "also came from somewhere else."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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