Melody Ranch Weekend

The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival twirls its lasso once again.

If you've ever visited a movie studio you know you can expect to see giant soundstages filled with backdrops and furniture and such, all items that can get moved in and out as needed. The studio, in short, is always in flux; one day it is Hawaii, the next day it is medieval France.

Which makes Melody Ranch in Newhall a rare bird. It's also a movie studio, but it is fully devoted to the Old West. The ranch's saloons and boarding houses don't get shifted around to make way for palm trees and castles; it has remained devoted to rootin' and tootin' since Gene Autry purchased it some 60 years ago.

And when the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival trots into town -- as it is doing from Thursday, April 19 through Sunday, April 22 -- you can bet movie fans and cowboy fans alike make for Placerita Canyon.

Of course, getting to walk around the historic Melody Ranch is just one facet to the spur-wearing festival; fans come for the music and the medicine show and the kids activities and, hello, the Gold Rush Food Court. (Best named food court ever? Probably.)

It's the perfect pairing of place and theme, and while many fine festivals nicely occupy convention halls or public parks, this is an Old West party in an Old West town.

We've said it before; if you watched "Deadwood" and you haven't yet visited Melody Ranch, are you in for a delightful day. The Newhall property stood in for the roughhewn South Dakota encampment on the HBO show. Even today a mosey down Melody's main street is delightfully discombobulating; you feel as if you'll run into the show's characters at any moment.

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