Walker Fall Festival slated for weekend

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Juice Newton, Sister Christian and more than 50 craft booths will be waiting for those who come to the first Walker Fall Festival in Walker, Calif., this weekend to help the small community recover from an economically devastating fire.

"We'll also have free face painting, a haystack, lots of pumpkins and a bounce house for the kids," said Lisa Crofton, spokeswoman for the Northern Mono County Chamber of Commerce. "This is a great family event."

She said tourists coming through the area in the summer provide most of the revenue for the tiny community, population 500.

"But this year because of the Cannon Fire the highway was closed for a week," she said. "Businesses didn't recover completely afterward and economically we took a big hit."

The 22,750-acre fire in June surrounded Walker, but spared the town. Three men, including pilot Steve Wass, were killed when their air tanker crashed while dropping fire retardant on the flames.

A month later, a 9,866-acre fire threatened the Topaz Lodge, forcing it to close as flames moved within one-half mile of the motel-casino and recreational vehicle park on the California-Nevada line.

Walker, which straddles U.S. 395 14 miles south of Topaz Lake, subsists largely on a handful of restaurants and motels and family-owned arts and crafts shops along the highway that winds between Western Nevada and Southern California.

"We want people to see the area, so they know it isn't as scarred as one might think," said Rick Ross, spokesman for Topaz Lodge Casino. "This is a great area for fishing, hunting, camping and hiking, with good restaurants and motels. It's a great place for a weekend getaway and hopefully, after this fall, everyone will decide to come back."

"The businesses are 100 percent dependent on having a good summer to make it through to next summer. June and July pretty much wiped them out," Ross said.

He said Topaz Lodge owners Bob and Rob Cashell came up with the idea of a festival in Walker to show that the region remained viable.

"We're hoping to expose the area and get a big boost economically this weekend, to get some people who haven't been here in awhile," Ross said.

The fun starts at 10 a.m. and goes until dark. The craft fair and kids' events are free and the concerts, which run from noon to 6 p.m., are $10 per person. Call the Northern Mono Chamber of Commerce at (530) 495-9666.


What: Walker Fall Festival

When: noon to dark Oct. 12-13

Where: Walker, Calif., 30 miles south of Gardnerville on Highway 395


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