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Annual Cowboy Festival appeals to all senses

Melody Ranch hosts the 20th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which features performers, vendors

Posted: April 20, 2013 10:28 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2013 10:28 p.m.

Trick roper Will Roberts shows off his skill at the 20th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival on Saturday at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Santa Clarita.

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The Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio is no stranger to crowds of people decked out in boots, spurs or Stetson hats, but plenty of new faces turned out at the studio Saturday to take part in the 20th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

First-time attendees Sachie Kikkawa and Brian Robbins came from Los Angeles to visit the festival, partly to support a friend who was a vendor.

But Robbins said the pair was also on the lookout for a new banjo teacher to join the music company he runs.

“We figured there might be a few at this festival,” Robbins said.

Some attended for simpler reasons. Priscilla Heaton attended the event with her husband and her two children.

“We saw it on the news,” Priscilla Heaton said of the event. “We’d never been here so we thought we would give it a try.”

“And it’s great, the kids love it,” she continued, watching her son attempt to throw a lasso.

Street performers wandered the grounds of the ranch doing rope tricks or playing the fiddle. The festival’s stages also hosted performances from Western musicians, a band playing marching songs from the Civil War era and a world-class gun twirler, among others.

In addition to entertaining, the event can also be a learning experience, said Mike Fleming, the festival’s director.

“It’s really a glimpse into our own culture,” said Fleming, who is also an arts and events supervisor with the city of Santa Clarita. “And I think that it’s very important for us to remember where we came from and what our roots are.”

Keeping culture alive was also the reason Jorge Lechuga attended the event with his three children.

With Lechuga on the drums, his children performed a series a Native American dances.

“It’s always good to share the culture and let people learn more about it,” Lechuga said.

Fleming said he has attended each and every Cowboy Festival and this is his ninth year as its director. He said during an average festival, 5,000 people will attend Saturday and about 4,000 will show up on Sunday.

“But I think this is one of the busiest days we’ve ever had,” he said Saturday.

Fleming didn’t hesitate to answer when asked what his favorite part of the festival is.

“I love seeing the smiling faces,” he said.

The Cowboy Festival continues Sunday at Melody Ranch. Those wishing to attend the festival can catch a city-run shuttle from the intersection of 13th Street and Railroad Avenue in Newhall. There is no public parking available at Melody Ranch.

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