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It's Cowboy Festival!

Posted: April 25, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: April 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Emma Corey, 4, waves to her mom as trick-roper Dave Thornbury twirls his rope around them both.

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Thousands of people experienced the cowboy way of life Saturday when they packed Melody Ranch to take part in the 16th annual Cowboy Festival.

The festival, which wraps up today, is expected to draw 9,000 people, said Phil Lantis, arts and events administrator for the city.

That figure is an increase from the 2008 Cowboy Festival, which brought just under 8,000 guests, he said.

The cool weather benefited this year's festival as Lantis expected more last-minute Cowboy Festival visitors to show up.

Along with the famed performers, a big draw of the Cowboy Festival is its setting at Melody Ranch, the Placerita Canyon movie studio.

"It's such a part of the Western film history," Lantis said.

The city added new features to Cowboy Festival this year as a way to enhance entertainment options for the family, Lantis said.

At the new Pioneer Living exhibit, kids and families can get a taste of the cowboy lifestyle as youngsters can pan for gold and spin wool.

Another addition to the 2009 Cowboy Festival is the New Buffalo Soldiers, a group of men who recreate the lives of the historic military company made up of former slaves, free men and black Civil War soldiers.

Event organizers debuted its newest entertainment area, Heritage Stage which featured Hispanic and Native American performances.

The new Buckaroo Book Shop Story Time allows families to gather and listen to tales from the time of the cowboy.

Groups of people, many sporting their cowboy hats and boots, spent Saturday walking past the historic storefronts on Main Street, enjoying live performances in between shopping at the rows of vendors and eating peach cobbler.

Christine Graham was at the Cowboy Festival for the first time Saturday with her two daughters, ages six and eight.

"I love how everybody dressed up," Graham said.

Karen Geller-Shinn of Canyon Country has only missed one or two festivals.

One of her favorite parts of the annual event is catching a performance by the musical group, The Sons of the San Joaquin.

"I just think they're extremely good," Geller-Shinn said.

Geller-Shinn enjoys the cowboy lifestyle and has framed nine Cowboy Festival posters from over the years in her house.

"My house has got a Western theme," she said.

John Whalen, who was decked out in Western wear, traveled from Orange County to experience Cowboy Festival.

Whalen, who marked his third visit to the Cowboy Festival on Saturday, looks forward to shopping and building up his wardrobe of outfits.

As a fan of Western movies, a big draw for him his being able to walk through Melody Ranch.

"Walking the boardwalk in boots - (there's) nothing like it," he said.

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