Moapa Valley Art Guild carries on sweet tradition

The Pomegranate Arts and Crafts Festival, a popular autumn event in Southern Nevada for the past 18 years, will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2 at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Logandale.

The festival features regional artwork and handmade crafts as well as the signature fruit and ruby red jelly made from local pomegranates that ripen in the fall. Admission is free.

To reach Logandale, drive north from Las Vegas about 60 miles on Interstate 15. Use exit 93 and head south on state Route 169, the road through the small communities of Logandale and Overton. About seven miles from the freeway exit, watch for the turnoff to the fairgrounds. Follow Whipple Avenue east past the elementary school to the fairgrounds parking area.

The festival attracts exhibitors from all over Southern Nevada and neighboring states. Juried fine arts exhibits and hand crafts feature only original work with the artists in attendance. Many demonstrate their skills during the festival.

A careful selection process ensures representation of many kinds of arts and crafts. Commercially manufactured items are not allowed.

Tables and booths featuring the beautiful pomegranates and jelly are always busy. Proceeds from the sale of the fruit benefit the Moapa Valley Art Guild’s scholarships program. The sponsoring organization also receives a portion of the sales at exhibitors’ booths as well as proceeds from tickets for raffles of donated items.

The crowds that attend the two-day event enjoy a rural setting and the family-oriented activities reminiscent of old-fashioned country fairs.

Booths set up indoors and outdoors provide hours of browsing. Many festivalgoers fill holiday gift lists with unique items available during the event. Veterans of the festival know to shop with cash and change in hand, bring sturdy carryall bags and dress for comfort and walking. Children attending with their families enjoy visiting booths featuring face painting, balloon art and crafts tables with take-home art projects.

Attendees may take breaks for snacks or beverages from food vendors and sit awhile and enjoy the onstage entertainment, which typically features local singers, dancers, fiddlers, choirs, bands or orchestras.

When the art festival was started in November 1996, it took up part of a local hardware store’s parking lot. The next year, the art guild renamed the event to reflect the sale of pomegranates and jelly and moved across the highway to a vacant lot with more space.

The fruit and jelly were so popular that it sold out within hours on the first day. In subsequent years, organizers had much more jelly on hand.

The location changed again in 2001 with the renovation of the historic Old Logandale School as a cultural center. By 2008, the festival attracted such crowds that it created parking problems and highway congestion near the Old Logandale School. In 2009, the event was moved to the Clark County Fairgrounds, where parking is ample and safely off the highway.

Pomegranates have been favorites in Moapa Valley for generations, after Mormon farmers introduced them in the area in the late 1800s. The small, sturdy trees thrive in the desert, often planted as hedgerows or windbreaks. They annually bear heavy crops of the distinctive fruit that is a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants. Local housewives long ago perfected jelly recipes, added the pretty seeds to salads and created other treats from several varieties of pomegranates grown in the valley.

Further explore this scenic and historic area on your way back to Las Vegas by continuing south on the highway to visit the Lost City Museum in Overton and learn about ancient farmers who built pueblo-style villages in the river valley. Then enjoy the spectacular drive through Valley of Fire State Park to reconnect with I-15.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.