The Mojave River Valley Museum approaches six decades in a corner of Barstow as a mainstay in the research and preservation of high desert history.
And if that role isn’t enough, it’s also the provider of an annual bonanza of food and fun nearly as old as the museum itself. This weekend marks the new iteration, and it rolls out the red carpet for a unique and spooky artifact as one of many attractions for attendees of all ages.
The museum is hosting its 55th annual Bar-B-Que and Open House fundraiser — the museum turns 58 — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 270 E. Virginia Way across from the Dana Park Community Center in Barstow.
Food tickets are $9 per adult and $4 per child, but many other offerings are free, according to Mojave River Valley Museum committee chair Pat Schoffstall.
Schoffstall named many must-haves for the annual event that will give people a taste of the Wild West: self-guided wagon tours; a blacksmith; a ropemaker and weaver; a locally produced moonlight tasting site; “a campfire with sourdough cookies in the dutch oven.”
Perhaps the most eccentric object attendants can expect is a relic of a legend from the history of Calico Ghost Town and the broader lore of paranormal activity: Nearly five decades of written diaries by Lucy Bell Lane, who rose to fame in life as Calico’s last resident – and in death as the entity most often seen by visitors and spirit mediums haunting her ghost town remains to this day.
Schoffstall says the Mojave River Valley Museum recently got its hands on the diaries, which cover Lane’s writings from 1920 until his death in 1967, and will unveil them on Saturday.
Saturday’s events will also include a raffle taking place at 2 p.m. with “dozens of prizes,” according to a flyer for the event, with the top prize being $500 cash. Live music and a photographer will roam the venue capturing snaps for people to take home as souvenirs. Schoffstall said these photos will be free, although the museum will tempt those who feel generous with their money.
“We donate the photos, but we’ll just give them away alongside a big donation jar, so it’s a choice,” she said.
The Mojave River Valley Museum is one of many that closed with the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, only to return with a backlog of work to do and fewer volunteers than ever to help with it. To do. It reopened in April 2021 and a few months later launched a volunteer recruitment effort which Schoffstall summed up by saying, “We just need so much help.”
Funding is as scarce as volunteers at museums in Barstow these days, venues staff said. In turn, Schoffstall says all donations raised at the event will directly pay for the essential functions of the Mojave River Valley Museum and its ability to share history with visitors any day of the week.
Charlie McGee covers California’s High Desert for The Daily Press, focusing on the town of Barstow and its surrounding communities. He is also a member of the Report for America corps with The GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.