By KELSEY KUKAUA
Valley Press Staff Writer
Enjoy one of the world’s best cowboy gatherings in your own backyard at the 2019 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, April 13-14. Now in its 26th year, the free event is known for attracting, annually, more than 10,000 Western enthusiasts of all ages. The festival will be held at William S. Hart Park Event Area and other venues in Santa Clarita’s historic western core — Old Town Newhall.
The first settlers migrated west riding on horseback, only to discover a foreign land now known as Santa Clarita. History tells us that gold, livestock and booming agriculture in a desert climate is what piqued the interest of this city’s founders. Around the turn of the 20th century, the town still carried its western charm, but channeled it into a new field: the film industry. Melody Ranch, a local film site with saloons and western flair served as the original location for the Cowboy Festival in 1994.
Among the diversity of actors calling the Santa Clarita Valley home, Hart arose as the iconic face of Old Town Newhall. With a park, school district and house museum dedicated to him, he has left his mark on Santa Clarita’s history. Overlooking the valley, his mansion has been preserved from its antique powder rooms to its ferocious bear hides. Decorating the walls are several framed letter correspondences written between himself and Wyatt Earp, a real American cowboy.
This historical location serves as the focal point for this year’s event.
“People come from all over the world to take part in this free festival,” Festival Director David Knutson said.
The 2019 Cowboy Festival showcases a number of musical acts in genres ranging from traditional cowboy music to country, alt country, folk, bluegrass and Americana. The festival also offers authentic western activities, street performances by trick ropers, gun spinners, live historical exhibits, authentic western gear and art. Not to mention, there will be a mechanical bull, archery, hatchet throwing and panning for gold.
For the first time, the festival will host a Cowboy Cook-off on April 13 to showcase the best BBQ and grill masters in the west. A Chili Cook-off on April 14 will benefit Bridge to Home, a Santa Clarita nonprofit organization assisting those experiencing homelessness.
The main festival takes place on April 13-14, but other festivities are scheduled earlier in the week. Starting at 5 p.m. on April 11, there will be an unveiling at the Walk of Western Stars on Main Street in Newhall, with an induction ceremony to follow.
At 11 a.m. on April 12, there will be lunch and a concert by Californio Fiesta de Rancho Camulos with New West, followed by a Tribute to Don Edwards. There will also be a cowboy dance with Cow Bop, that night at 7 p.m.
The rest of the weekend will be packed with performances on five stages and filled with western history and activities.
“It’s free and fun for all ages to come out and enjoy,” Knutson said. “People come for the music and stay for the peach cobbler.”
Additional information, including performance schedules, venues and pricing for special events taking place throughout Old Town Newhall, is available at CowboyFestival.org.