Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival

Tami Lindahl, right, dances a line dance called a "power jam" at the "Best in the West"-themed Senses block part in downtown Newhall on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

In case anyone is wondering about all the music, laughter and live entertainment resonating throughout Santa Clarita this weekend, it’s because the 25th Annual City of Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, presented by Heritage Sierra Medical Group, is back.

Gonzalo Perez tries his hand at riding the mechanical bull at the “Best in the West”-themed Senses block part in downtown Newhall on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The silver anniversary of the time-honored Cowboy Festival isn’t just offering a taste of the Wild West as only Santa Clarita can — this year, the City is also providing free admission to their festival, which regularly draws tens of thousands of people from all over.

As guests walk into the park Saturday morning, they might actually think they’ve travelled back to a time when bison freely roamed throughout the Santa Clarita Valley — and that’s because just over the hill from the entrance to the festival, you can actually see a herd of bison, donated to the property decades ago by Walt Disney himself, according to Kevin Strauss, communications specialist for the City of Santa Clarita. “At Hart Park there’s a herd of American bison, which were gifted after being brought to Disney Ranch for filming,” he said, referring to the roaming descendants of movie stars that graze adjacent to the festival’s grounds.

In addition to being a fun-filled, family-friendly event, the Cowboy Festival offers residents a reminder, and introduces visitors, to the City’s rich Western history and culture, according to Carrie Lujan, City of Santa Clarita spokeswoman.

“This is an opportunity to embrace the rich Western heritage of our City and explore the cowboy culture and tradition,” Lujan said, noting the event offers something for everyone. “The Cowboy Festival has everything from gold panning and western activities for children, to craft beers and vendors selling authentic cowboy goods for adults.” There’s even opportunities for everyone to try their hand at authentic feats of strength…like hatchet throwing, archery and even riding the mechanical bull, Lujan added. Not to mention a petting zoo with all kinds of native animals from chickens and turtles to alpacas!

As part of this atmosphere, buffalo soldiers from the Civil War-era act as living history exhibits — you can go up and ask them questions about their service and learn what life was like more than 150 years ago. Or, if you’d prefer a hands-on type of trip back in time, you can actually pan for gold as they did during the early days of Santa Clarita’s settlement. While San Francisco is well known for the gold rush, many aren’t aware that Santa Clarita was the site, according to legend, where gold was first found in California, at the Oak of the Golden Dream.

Brendan Suarez, 5, talks to the Lone Ranger portrayed by Greg Mowry during the 24th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at William S. Hart Park in Old Town Newhall. Samie Gebers/The Signal

It also wouldn’t be a Cowboy Festival without Cowboy tunes, and the weekend will also be filled with musical performances by artists on stages throughout the City, including Santa Clarita’s new venue, The MAIN theater in Old Town Newhall on Main Street, which is where concertgoers can also take a stroll by Old Town Newhall’s Walk of Western Stars.

As the weekend progresses, the celebration of Cowboy culture offers a formal venue with the City of Santa Clarita’s 25th Anniversary Gala on Saturday in Hart Hall. Tickets are still available for the once in a lifetime event, which will feature Cowboy Festival stars and performers from years past. Visit CowboyFestival.org for more information and to purchase tickets. Gala guests will enjoy fine dining, drinks, live entertainment – as well as a chance to sit among a few of the City’s past honorees from the aforementioned Walk of Western Stars.

Whether you’re there for the lassos, the alpacas, the mechanical bull, to dance at one (or more!) of the half-dozen music stages, have fun in the inflatable bounce area or to take in the food and stop at one of the Wolf Creek Brewery beer gardens throughout the festival, there’s a little something for everyone, Lujan added. She also hinted at a special appearance by Sammy Clarita, a pocket-sized, stuffed horse mascot the City created as part of its recent 30th birthday celebration. “Sammy is back to honor the Cowboy Festival’s 25th and will be hiding throughout the event space, throughout the weekend wearing his new Cowboy shirt and bandana. Festivalgoers can visit the City of Santa Clarita’s Instagram page and follow clues that will lead them to a Sammy of their own. If you are fortunate enough to find your own Cowboy Festival Sammy Clarita – remember to take a selfie with him and post to social media using #IFoundSammyClarita.”

“The Cowboy Festival is an amazing opportunity to explore the history of our City and the Wild West,” Lujan said. “The music you will hear, and the performers you will see are an incredible medley of traditional Cowboy and up and coming country acts. Get your tickets now – and get ready for a fantastic weekend with family and friends.”

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