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Thousands taste cowboy life

Posted: April 26, 2008 11:24 p.m.
Updated: June 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Trick roper Dave Thornbury shows his roping skills as he makes his way down Main Street of Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studios in Newhall. The ranch hosted the 15th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

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Thousands of visitors experienced the cowboy lifestyle on Saturday during the 15th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studios in Newhall.

The Old West-themed festival, which continues today, includes numerous country music performances, western-inspired cuisine and festivities and games for the family.

Mike Fleming, arts and event supervisor for the city, said he expected between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors on Saturday, with another 5,000 today.

While many of the attendees were local residents, Fleming said the event brought in visitors from across the country to tour the famous Melody Ranch studios, where HBO's "Deadwood" and dozens of Western classics were filmed, and to watch the performances from singer-guitarist Don Edwards and The Sons of the San Joaquin, among others.

On the warm breezy day, thousands of visitors strolled through Main Street, stopping to view the performers and to step inside the stores.

Valencia resident Bryan Anthony and his three children watched as a blacksmith engraved names of guests on horseshoes.

Although Anthony said he will occasionally watch a classic Western, he liked "getting out of the house" for the day with his kids.

Further down Main Street, Gina Wileman and her son, Conner, 8, were making their second visit to the annual festival.

"My son just can't get enough of the Western antique stores," she said.

Wileman said she enjoys the Western lifestyle and felt that the festival was like going into the past and visiting John Wayne's era.

Wileman particularly likes seeing familiar faces and shopping at the stores, which she said have unique and unusual jewelry pieces.

Dave Thornbury of Agoura has been a festival performer for four years. As a trick roper, Thornbury, dressed as a traditional cowboy and entertained the passers-by with a twirl of the rope.

"I have a lot of friends that I see walk through," Thornbury said. "And I meet new friends every 10 minutes."

Fleming said about 10 months is needed prepare for the entire festival. Two weeks are dedicated to setting up Melody Ranch for the weekend's festivities.

Regardless of all the work, Fleming takes pleasure in the behind-the-scenes work and considers the festival to be one of the best of its kind in the United States.

"You've got to experience it at least once," he said.

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