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Autumn events draw crowds to Pahrump Valley

A couple of eagerly anticipated events — the Sept. 22-25 Pahrump Fall Festival and the Oct. 1-2 Grape Stomp — will draw crowds of locals and visitors in the Pahrump Valley this fall.

The unincorporated town of Pahrump, the largest community in Nye County, is about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, following state Route 160 over Mountain Springs Pass into the valley west of the Spring Mountain Range.

The fall festival has been a community favorite for 50 years. It includes a fair, parade, carnival and rodeo.

The parade starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 24 and features a range of marching groups, bands, vintage vehicles, equestrian groups, floats, politicians, kids and pets.

The rodeo starts at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 and 24 costs $10 per night. All-day carnival passes cost $25 and are available on the Pahrump Chamber of Commerce website (www.pahrumpchamber.com) or at the gate.

When the community held its first fall festival, Pahrump was a far different place, home to several hundred residents. Today more than 36,500 live there.

The valley then was mostly agricultural, as it had been since American settlers arrived in the late 1800s. Pahrump took its name from what the original native inhabitants called it, meaning “Water Rock.” The valley had many artesian springs that native people used to farm small plots of land.

Soon, farmers and ranchers exploiting the water farmed large areas, with orchards, truck gardens and pastures for livestock. By the 1960s, the valley supported dairy herds, alfalfa crops and fields of long-staple Egyptian cotton.

It proved to be too much for the artesian flow. Necessary changes in water usage led to the demise of agriculture as the valley’s economic mainstay.

Wine-making is one agricultural enterprise thriving in the Pahrump Valley these days, considered an acceptable and water-thrifty use of resources. The wine industry has established a foothold in several places throughout arid Nevada since grapes produce far more than other kinds of crops using the same amount of water.

Pahrump has two wineries with vineyards, and several separate vineyards in nearby Amargosa Valley provide some of the grapes.

The Grape Stomp, a popular autumn event at Pahrump Valley Winery, celebrates the grape harvest in Pahrump.

Gates open at 11 a.m. both days of the festival. Admission costs $10. The winery’s party draws hundreds for food, wine tasting, music, crafts, wine auction and the traditional stomping of the grapes.

Two-person teams have two strenuous minutes to crush grapes in a barrel. The juice amounts are carefully measured to determine the winners in various categories. Those who want to compete in the Grape Stomp should reserve a spot now at www.pahrumpwinery.com.

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

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