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John Boston: Cowboy fest: On the road to perdition?

How Beige Was My Valley

Posted: January 10, 2009 8:59 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

 
"If you get thrown from a horse, you have to get up and get back on, unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around and scream in pain."
- old cowboy saying

Recently, the city o' SClarita announced the spring line-up for its 15th annual Cowboy Fest, which, this year, has been renamed: C-Fes.

In 1994, after the Northridge Earthquake, the city launched its first festival dedicated to cowboy music, film, poetry and heritage. Over the years, it became one of the biggest celebrations of Things Western in the known world.

But many things have changed, including the face of the valley. In the latest in a series of exclusive Mighty Signal faux interviews, we sat down with interim C-Fes coordinator Terri Miesew.

In a session frank and often damning to the city's power brokers, the senior from Jill Klajic High in Honby offered a shocking tour into the seamier side of cowboy festival planning.

THE MIGHTY SIGNAL: We couldn't help but notice, Terri. You're 17. How did someone your age end up spearheading an international event with a $233 million budget?

TERRI MIESEW: Well, remember that the Cowboy Fest swan-dived to the tune of $116 million into the red last year ...

TMS: The over-ordering of 250,000 commemorative cowboy mouse pads by Jason Smisko?

TM: It was the office supply version of Dresden. They were 4-by-8-feet. No human has that kind of arm reach, let alone a workstation area that size. Then we lost the lawsuit involving the incorrect chemical mixture in the porta-potties, and the subsequent tragic accident with that busload of Anabaptists from Manitoba. Poor people couldn't wear pants for more than a year.

The city settled with the ACLU because there were no gay Muslim cowboys represented, and PETA went home with a seven-figure check after that incident in which the guide dog accidentally wandered into the chuckwagon area and became a taco.

As to how I got the job, I was co-chair of the Klajic High prom last year. Besides being completely awesome, we came in $175 under budget. Plus, my mom sort of sleeps with someone in planning.

TMS: That answers a lot of questions. We've noticed a disturbing miniaturizing trend from City Hall.

Originally, the event was called The Santa Clarita Cowboy Music and Poetry Festival. Over the years, staffers pruned the title until it became just Cowboy Fest. And now, it's the cryptic "C-Fes." Why?

TM: Me and my friends, like, counted? The original title was 50 characters long. By cutting it to C-Fes, it's five, an improvement of at least 48 percent. Not only do we save ink, which makes ozone holes, our posters are now the size of business cards, which can fit into a flip cell phone.

Also, our crack marketing department revealed that today, the only people who actually know what a cowboy is are in the rare 94- to 115-year-old demographic, and they usually stay at the festival no more than 12 minutes, and statistics show 37 percent of them collapse from the heat anyway.

TMS: Wait a second. C-Fes. Isn't that the name of that repossession company in Canyon Country that's a front for the Palmdale Mob?

TM: Duh. They're our main sponsor. And it's "alleged mob."

TMS: So the grand jewel of the SCV is now named after a repo company.

TM: Poetic, isn't it? In this economy, cash is king. Plus, with the types of people we attract, it's a safe bet that half are under notice to have their cars repossessed. Think of the time and labor C-Fes will save heisting everyone's wheels in the same parking lot!

TMS: Like the American Dream itself, will the April week-long event be down-sized?

TM: First, let me say that at the city of SClarita, in the spirit of The New Socialism, we put the "pal" in "municipal." We're bringing a whole new look to the Old West. That's why we thought it's cozier to host the 2009 fest at the Lumberjack Room at the IHOP on Pico.

TMS: What's so Western about the Lumberjack Room?

TM: My uncle was a lumberjack and he's OK.

TMS: Let me guess. Did he work all night?

TM: And he slept all day.

TMS: Let's look at your program line-up for April. Isn't the city trying to save money with such alleged talent as Tourette's Timmy, The Swearing Cowboy Poet?

TM: Haven't you ever watched "Deadwood?"

TMS: What about Stuttering Bob, The Singing Sidekick?

TM: With money tight, we're paying by the song.

TMS: But what about at these events: "Horse Stare Contest?" The "How To Scalp A White Person" booth? And what's this: "The SCV Hist-whore-ical Society House"?

TM: It is an accurate depiction of life in the real West, involving - um - re-enactor ladies with low self-esteem, the general public and a $50 a quarter-hour donation, an on-call trauma nurse and a trained Affection Management Engineer.

TMS: You mean a pimp.

TM: That label is so demeaning and hurtful.

TMS: Doesn't this strike you as wrong? What about the wealth of real Western talent?

TM: (snickers) Oh yeah. Right. Like we're going to get Vince Gill or Kevin Costner to mosey out to Condo Purgatory for a poster, tote bag and a 4-by-8 foot mouse pad depicting giant stick figures of the Irish getting lynched. Did I mention we have a new stunt show?

TMS: Tell us about that.

TM: Hot off the success of reality TV, visitors compete in a variety of competitions, essentially fistfight-oriented, broken into age and gender brackets, including two for handicapped people: Hunchbacks and Non-Hunchbacks.

TMS: You pay tourists to get into barroom brawls ...

TM: Who said "pay"? They fill out insurance/damage waivers and pay the city 20 bucks to fight to the death in the middle of a dirt street.

TMS: What's first prize?

TM: In keeping with our rich tradition of the Old West, you get to live. Plus, first place gets four passes to the SCV's Hist-whor ...

TMS: (interrupting) We get the picture. We hate to bring this up again, but being such a young person who obviously has no connection with SClarita, how can you possibly showcase what the Old West was about?

TM: That's easy. For more information on this year's cowboy festival in April, with its amazing talent, shops, exhibits, cuisine and fun family activity, just call 259-CITY or visit www.cowboyfestival.org.

John Boston has earned 117 major national, regional and state awards, some for writing about things Western. His work, if you can call it that, appears Fridays and Sundays in Your Mighty Signal.

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