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Lombardi Ranch rises from the ashes

Posted: September 21, 2008 7:55 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Jaime Hernandez, who has worked at Lombardi Ranch for 24 years, arranges vegetables for sale on Friday afternoon at the Saugus fixture.

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The handful of red tomatoes sat in wooden boxes as customers passed by to pick their favorites.

Rows of corn lined the wooden stands near the cash registers.

The fields in the background were green with the various crops in season.

Lombardi Ranch is open once again and gearing up for another Halloween celebration after recovering from wildfires that ravaged the iconic ranch last October.

Joann Lombardi, who owns Lombardi Ranch with husband Bob, said business has been steady since opening Aug. 8.

"It's about what it was last year," she said.

High gas prices have slightly impacted business, she said.

But the weeks ahead are sure to bring an increase in traffic, the Lombardis hope.

The Saugus farm hosts its 19th Annual Scarecrow contest on Sept. 28. The winners are announced on the same day and the scarecrows will stay up until Halloween for visitors to see.

Attractions like the petting zoo, wagon rides and pony rides are also re-opening.

"We're pretty much doing everything the same," Lombardi said. The difference this year is the placement of the attractions and the rehabilitated buildings.

A blaze scorched many of the structures and sheds, antique cars used for displays and a vintage fire engine were badly damaged during the Oct. 21 Buckweed Fire that roared through Santa Clarita Valley, blackening hundreds of acres.

The family rebuilt just about everything that was damaged and the ranch briefly opened and operated on a smaller scale last year.

Past the market area stands a new ticket stand and snack shack. Mechanics repaired the vintage fire engine while the other damaged cars line the back of the farm.

The only thing not rebuilt was the home Lombardi's daughter lived in.

"That was irreplaceable," she said.

Through the rebuilding effort, her four children have stepped up to help operate the ranch, leaving Bob to focus on the farm, Lombardi said.

Rob Lombardi, one of the children, worked throughout the last year to fix what was lost to the fire.

"It's reorganized to open the place up more," he said.

By switching attractions around the ranch has a better flow for the droves of visitors who will come around Halloween, Lombardi said.

Lombardi Ranch cleared many hurdles over its 43-year history, but it's a local landmark that keeps families coming every year.

"It's the last farm," Lombardi said. "It's the last place kids can see where stuff grows."

With its handmade signs, friendly staff and history in the valley, parents who visited the farm when they were young bring their own children, Lombardi said.

Only a handful of shoppers were perusing the day's selection of produce Friday.

Carolyn Marti of Valencia held an eggplant and a crate of squash as she made her way to the cash register.

She's lived in Santa Clarita for 37 years but made her first trip of the year to Lombardi Ranch last week.

When asked if the ranch's reputation drew her to the farm, she nodded in agreement.

"Otherwise I wouldn't be up here," she said.

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