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The Old West, SCV-style

Event: Cowboy Festival draws thousands to legendary Newhall studio ranch

Posted: May 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

World-champion gunslinger Joey Dillon demonstrates his gun-spinning prowess for the crowd at the 2011 city of Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall on Saturday.

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As the lasso whipped a few feet from her head, 9-year-old Samantha Hughes covered her face with her hands.

The lasso’s loop shot past her, but a wind gust pushed it to her right. Hughes’ dad, Robert, 43, gathered the rope to try and wrangle his daughter.

He didn’t miss Samantha with the lasso on his second throw. And as he corraled his daughter, Samantha started to laugh.

“She likes to play around,” Robert Hughes said, as he pulled on the brim of his Stetson with his hand. “This is fun for our kids.”

The Hughes family was one of the nearly 10,000 Western enthusiasts expected to show up for the city’s 18th annual Cowboy Festival at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall this weekend. Walking through the 25-acre movie studio Saturday was like walking the pages of a history textbook.

Singers belted twang melodies while other musicians strummed guitars and banjos in 1880s-style saloons. Cowboy poets recited verse, and cowboy comedians joked on the four stages set up at the studio. Meanwhile, droves of people dined on classic cowboy cuisine: roasted corn, Dutch oven peach cobbler and a tantalizing array of grilled meats. 

Melody Ranch is an active movie studio that has been used to film more than 2,000 movies, many of them cowboy flicks, since it opened in 1915. The festival helps to preserve Santa Clarita’s Western heritage and offer an education to younger generations about the movie industry’s Golden Age of Western movies, said Andre Veluzat who owns the ranch with his brother.

“It’s kind of a thrill to sit on Main Street where so many movies were filmed,” Veluzat said. “It’s a piece of history. I want to make sure we never lose this heritage.”

Cat Lane, 39, met her fiance, Kirk Fowler, at the Cowboy Festival three years ago. Both dress in cowboy garb.

Lane said they met through mutual friends and instantly bonded over their shared love of the television show “Deadwood,” which was taped at the ranch.

“He knew all the nerdy things about the show that I knew about,” Lane, who lives in Paso Robles, recalled.

The two have come to the Cowboy Festival each year since to celebrate the day they met. The two plan to get hitched at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Western-themed ghost town in November.



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