Bob Kellar: A weekend of good-‘ol fashion fun at the cowboy festival

David Thornbury performs some trick roping for a picture with Sonia and Zachary Hill at the 24th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at William S. Hart Park in Old Town Newhall. Signal file photo
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If you’ve had the pleasure of taking your kids or grandkids to the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, you know the weekend boasts activities and fun for the entire family. This year’s festival, presented by California Resources Corp., returns to William S. Hart Park in Old Town Newhall on Saturday and Sunday.

From the moment you walk into Hart Park, you will be transported back to our city’s early days, with Wild West activities for kids and adults alike.

First things first — you don’t want to miss your chance to take a photo with trick roper Dave Thornbury. He’ll teach you some rope tricks, and you may even find yourself in the middle of his spinning lasso!

From there, you will want to explore all the Cowboy Festival has to offer in terms of history, skill challenges, food and entertainment. Each area of the park not only features a different activity, it also provides an excellent opportunity for your children to learn about cowboy living, and Santa Clarita’s rich western heritage.

Stop by the blacksmith’s shop to get your own custom horseshoe décor, and hear their tales of establishing new settlements in the West. At the Native American Lodge, you will see authentic artifacts, hear stories and songs, and learn about the early inhabitants of our region.

When you are ready to test your mettle to see if you could cut it in the Wild West, challenge your family to an archery competition or see who can go more than eight seconds on the mechanical bull. A crowd favorite at the Cowboy Festival is the chance to pan for gold, just as the first settlers did in California following the discovery of gold in Placerita Canyon, and later at Sutter’s Mill in Northern California near Coloma.

After you’ve discovered the historic preserved buildings in Heritage Junction, including the Saugus Train Station, take your family on a short tram ride to the top of Hart Park for a free tour of the William S. Hart Mansion. When you get there, you will be amazed by Mr. Hart’s collection of western artifacts and works of art that adorn his former home.

Be sure to ask your shuttle driver to stop the tram on your way to Hart Mansion, so you can get a glimpse of the herd of American Bison that live in the park. Did you know they were a gift from Walt Disney himself?

Of course, your kids will absolutely love the wide variety of food and snacks available during the Cowboy Festival. You can also check out the selection of western vendors to find unique and handmade toys, games, apparel and more – similar to items that were used more than 150 years ago.

These are just some of the things you can do with your family at the 26th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival this April. Learn more about all the exciting events, activities, performances and more at

Bob Kellar is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].

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