You don’t have to be a cowboy to enjoy the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. Taking place in William S. Hart Park in old town Newhall, California, this annual Western gathering is fun for buckaroos and old timers alike. Walking under the William S. Hart brand, suspending inside a larger than life horse shoe, festival goers will step back in time to the 1860’s.
The 150-acre William S. Hart Park, a gift to the public from the silent Western film actor, is the location for the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. With over 20 years of cowboy gatherings under its belt, the festival brings history to life.
My first thoughts of the festival were like I’d stepped into a Western movie, as I was surrounded by Confederate soldiers, blacksmiths working their forge, cowboys cooking coffee over an open flame and the smell of peach cobbler wafting in the air from a dutch oven.
There is so much to see and do in Santa Clarita that you’ll need the entire weekend to explore Old Town Newhall and the park. I walked the entire length of the park during the Cowboy Festival to try to fit in all that was offered. Kids were panning for gold, throwing hatchets and practicing archery (under adult supervision) while cannons boomed and folks dressed in period clothing reenacted a Civil War skirmish. The Buffalo Soldiers were here, along with Hispanic and Native American cultures, plenty of horses and trick roper Dave Thornbury.
If dressing up isn’t your thing, you’re bound to find some music that you like. There were four entertainment stages scattered about the park with different musical venues from Western swing bluegrass to cowboy poetry, storytelling and Native American songs, dance and regalia related to the Pow Wow.
What I loved about the Cowboy Festival? I was turned on to a new-to-me band, The Haunted Windchimes, out of Colorado. Their vintage sound draws from folk music with beautiful four-part harmonies. I bought their CD Out with the Crow and sang along with “Make It Rain” during my drive back to the drought-stricken San Francisco Bay Area.
I mentioned the smell of dutch oven peach cobbler at the Cowboy Festival. Along with cowboy coffee and biscuits and gravy, the cobbler seems to be a “must do” at this shindig. In addition, there was barbeque, lemonade, fry bread and food trucks galore. Needless to say, I did not leave old town Newhall hungry!
The Cowboy Festival is great for unique Western gift ideas. I’m not one for shopping, but I picked up a cute denim jean jacket to wear horseback riding and I was sorely tempted to buy a gun holster for my husband. There were Western shirts, belts, purses and cowboy hats, as well as boots, blankets and holiday wreaths made out of rope.
Insider tip: download the Newhall Walking Tour app. Discover Santa Clarita’s historic sites, film locations and Western Walk of Stars with the Newhall Walking free app. What are your favorite things to do in Old Town Newhall and at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival?