February 12 - 16 marks the annual celebration

A cowboy moseys into a saloon – only in the Old West is it an acceptable practice to "mosey" -- in search of libation. He saddles up to the bar and demands that the bartender pour him a shot.

"Can't do it," said the bartender. "There was a huge wreck on the trail, and my supplies got dumped out of the wagon. A second wagon was following too close and ran over the cask. It got pretty well pancaked."

"So that means what to me?" asked the cowboy."

"It means I've got nothing but 'Whiskey Flat'."

I begged you to stop me.

Back in the days of the gold rush, the Kern River Valley was home to some rough characters. The booze flowed freely, making the name Whiskey Flat (formerly Rogersville and later Kernville) for its burgeoning community a natural. Now the region steps back in time once a year to celebrate its historic past.

The annual Whiskey Flat Days Celebration pays homage to the KRV's rough-and-tumble origins. Scheduled for February 12-16 in Kernville, the 54th edition includes a parade, rodeo, Wild West encampment, carnival, frog jumping contests, a massive street fair, and a whole lot more.

The festival has been around since 1956, making it one of Kern's oldest and grandest annual events. Sponsored by the Kernville Chamber of Commerce and heavily supported by the community, the event has grown from a small local celebration to a monster. This tiny community of about 2,000 people will welcome thousands of visitors over the five-day span.

Activities are spread throughout the community but generally center around Circle and Riverside parks. The twin greenbelts straddle the town center and provide easy access to the scenic Kern River, the shopping and dining district, and plenty of activities.

Events start on Thursday with a play and cowboy auction. The street fair and western encampments start rolling on Friday, but for my day-trippin' self, the big day is Saturday. The Masonic Lodge starts serving up pancakes at 7 am -- and that's just enough time to fortify yourself for the big day ahead before the town goes nuts.

In addition to pancakes, the early start gives you an edge when it comes to finding a base of operations. Jimmy Hoffa isn't missing; he's just looking for a parking space. Public parking in the downtown area is limited, so late-comers are looking at a moderate hike from area side streets or parking near the rodeo grounds. Regardless, make sure you're in position by mid-morning.

The grand parade rolls through town beginning at 11 am, and "through town" is an understatement. It owns the town. Horses, vintage cars, floats, musicians, families – everything but Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster seem to make an appearance in an affair longer than the end credits for Lord of the Rings. I admit it, I'm a sucker for parades. Robert Preston didn't need 76 trombones – I'd follow two guys with a snare drum and a kazoo.

And the day is just beginning. There's a concert by the river, excitement from the encampments (including gunfights galore), the rodeo, children's activities, frog jumpin' and a lot more. And in between, take advantage of the time to visit the historical museum; grab a walking tour of the town; or enjoy one of the many shops and eateries within walking distance.

Um, a word about walking. After the parade, beware of obstacles. Did I mention there were horses involved?

If you've got any juice left in the tank, gear up again for more rodeo, carnival and entertainment on Sunday. Throw in a pet parade and the finals of the Whiskerino Contest and you've had a full weekend.

There's so much to enjoy that a few words here have only managed to scratch the surface. For a full rundown of events, contact the Kernville Chamber of Commerce at 866-KERNVILLE or view a schedule online at www.KernValley.com.

To stay up-to-date on events and activities county wide, check the web at www.VisitKern.com. Click on the "Calendar of Events' link for a round-up of the latest happenings.

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