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Cowboy Festival preps for 21st year

Posted: April 8, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Trickroper Dave Thornbury entertains the crowd on Main Street at last year's Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall.


For history buff Maria Christopher, the quiet walk down Main Street before the crowds arrive at Melody Ranch is her favorite part of the Cowboy Festival.

“You’re able to step back in time,” she said of the place.

Christopher arrived in Santa Clarita in 1998. Wanting to become involved with the community, she decided to volunteer as an usher for the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival — and she has mostly stuck with that position over the years.

“One thing I’m really happy to see is that they’ve expanded the heritage part of it,” she said. “On the heritage stage, they’ll have the Native American dancers. It is entertainment, but it’s also a cultural event.”

The Cowboy Festival, heading into its 21st year, celebrates cowboy culture set on the stage where legendary cowboy actors like William S. Hart, Gary Cooper, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Bill Boyd and John Wayne filmed their Westerns.

Monogram studios produced 750 “B” Westerns there before selling the property to singing cowboy Gene Autry in 1952. He sold the studio to the Veluzat brothers in 1990.

The family of local movie ranch owners restored the property.

Inspired by the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Santa Clarita city leaders launched the city’s first Cowboy Festival in 1994 featuring Old West music, poetry, cowboy gear, food and storytelling.

The festival has grown in popularity every year and now draws crowds from throughout the United States.

The festival itself is scheduled for Saturday, April 26, through Sunday, April 27, but many festival-related events are scheduled leading up to it.

Thursday, April 24: Those events begin Thursday with a Western Film Tour featuring film historians E.J. and Kim Stephens guiding visitors in the tour of Agua Dulce filming sites, Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch, Mystery Mesa and Box Canyon, and culminating at the Tesoro del Adobe ranch of Western film star Harry Carey. Tickets are $45.

A second Western Film Tour is scheduled Friday, April 25, but it is sold out.

Also scheduled Thursday are the Cowboy Couture, a premiere cowboy fashion event, as well as a chance to meet and greet “real life (Wyatt) Earp relatives” performing a play about what really happened in Tombstone. The event costs $35, offers limited seating and is performed at the William S. Hart Mansion.

Friday, April 25: The day before the festival begins offers many cowboy-related events. They include a morning walking tour of the downtown Newhall Walk of Western Stars; a California Fiesta at Rancho Camulos in the Santa Clara River Valley, featuring a concert by Dave Stamey at Don Ygnacio del Valle’s estancia that is said to have inspired the novel “Ramona”; Leonard Maltin with Cheryl Rogers Barnett on “Growing up with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans” at William S. Hart Park; and dinner and the movie “The Magnificent Seven” at Melody Ranch Movie Night.

Saturday and Sunday: A Behind the Scenes Tour of Melody Ranch is available on the days of the festival at 8:30 a.m.
Evening events on Saturday include the Cowboy Cabaret with Cow Bop and The Lucky Stars at 8 p.m. at the Repertory East Playhouse, and Belinda Gail & Jon Chandler (Alone/Together), a performance of “America’s Western Sweetheart” and the “Voice of the Colorado Rockies” at the William S. Hart Mansion.

Cowboy Church is held at 8 a.m. Sunday on the campus of The Master’s College.

For details on scheduling and information on purchasing tickets, visit Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival


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