More than 10,000 people gathered at William S. Hart Park and Heritage Junction over the weekend to celebrate the wild West at the 2019 Cowboy Festival hosted by the city of Santa Clarita.
“The 26th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival once again entertained visitors from the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond with great music, fun activities, delicious food and an opportunity to learn about our city’s rich Western heritage,” said Kevin Strauss, communications specialist with the city.
This year’s event, presented by California Resources Corp., brought out one of the largest crowds seen from the past few years, he said. The city estimates an attendance of about 10,500 across the free two-day festival, with around 4,500 on Saturday and 6,000 on Sunday. Last year, about 9,000 participated.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, herds of people in cowboy hats and boots flocked to the park that was decked out in full Western style, complete with rows of hay, wood barrels and myriad activities for all ages. The many attractions available this year included line dancing lessons, ranch touring, panning for gold, yodeling, dry goods sales and Native American history. Trick roper Dave Thornbury was one of the most popular attractions among festival-goers, with scores of people sharing photos on social media of themselves with Thornbury as he performed lasso tricks.
Life on the American frontier was depicted by live music across five stages with performances by folk, bluegrass and Americana bands such as The Quebe Sisters, Dead Winter Carpenters and the Messick Family.
And what’s a festival without food and drinks? Hundreds had the opportunity to chow down on ribs, barbecue treats, beer from local breweries such as Wolf Creek Brewery and freshly made peach cobblers — a Cowboy Festival favorite.
Sunday featured the inaugural Chili Cook-off, which was a sanctioned event by the International Chili Society and raised money for the Bridge to Home shelter. Attendees had the chance to purchase tickets, which allowed them to vote for their favorite chili to win the People’s Choice category.
The top three winners were Dean Aldridge in first place, followed by Tish Crawford and Ken Hook. Under the Traditional Red category, the winners were Tish Crawford, Jim Beaty and Kris Fulton. For the Homestyle section, Clark McGee came in first place, followed by Kris Fulton and Darlene Taylor.
The chili cook-off was a huge success, said Mike Foley, executive director of the nonprofit Bridge to Home. With all proceeds benefiting the organization, an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 was raised, he said.
“The focus wasn’t so much on raising money as it was making people aware of what we’re (Bridge to Home) doing and spending time with the community,” he said Monday. “We are hoping that we will come around $5,000, but any support is great in helping us end homelessness. So, thank you.”
Elected officials also spent their weekend dressed in cowboy regalia and making memories with members of the community, including City Council members, state Sen. Scott Wilk and Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who tweeted photos of herself tasting the chili and interacting with the public.