Planning for the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival is already in gear for the city, and has been for director Dave Knutson essentially since last year’s event ended. While the city’s arts and events coordinator has been involved with the five-day-long event for the past 10 years, he is eagerly anticipating his first year as director, as he hopes to combine favorite elements of past festivals with some new ideas of his own. “I’m actually really excited,” Knutson said. “I have lots of visions for the future. It’s great for me to be able to take on the director role and start putting pieces in place for ideas that I’ve had for a while that the team is all behind; and that we get to start building toward what it’s going to look like in the future for different audiences.” Knutson said he is looking forward to first-time festival performers Run Boy Run and Tony Furtado, as well as the return of the civil war reenactment. Festival favorites Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin and Dave Stamey, whose show is already sold out, are booked to come back this year among 26 total performers. “I love this festival and I want to continue to see it succeed,” he said. “We’re trying to balance a mix of new with our traditional cowboy music.” This is the third year the festival performances will be held at William S. Hart Park, as the festival’s former host Melody Ranch has been booked for movie filming. “It’s never really presented an opportunity to go back (to Melody Ranch),” Knutson said. “The William S. Hart Park staff has been a great partner to work with during the events.” Popular Film Ranch Tour tickets are sold out as well, and Knutson said people start buying them as early as January when they are first available for purchase. “Everyone likes it because you get to do something different each year on these tours,” Knutson said. Jennifer Thompson, city arts and school administrator, has been helping with the festival for the last 14 years and is looking forward to enjoying the festivities as a guest this year. “I think that each year it is an enhancement, especially since it’s moved to William S. Hart Park,” Thompson said. “It has such great scenery and such a different atmosphere that you can bring a lot more of that living history element and more stages and performers to the event, so that’s kind of a fun aspect of it.” The Cowboy Festival will be held from April 19 to 23. For more information and ticket sales, visit cowboyfestival.org. For those who want to get involved, over 100 volunteer opportunities are available for ticket takers, greeters, hosts and set up, and can sign up at santaclaritavolunteers.com.