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The Wild West
April, 2024 - Issue #229
Of all the great big names that permeate Santa Clarita, I submit that Clare, Newhall and Hart are each owed at least a century. Saint Clare gets the 1700s - a party of Spanish explorers named our river after her in 1769, and she's why we're Santa Clarita today. Henry Newhall gets the 1800s, for that's when he got the ball rolling on developing the valley and established his enormous legacy. William Hart gets the 1900s. The star of gritty Westerns lived here, somehow legitimizing Santa Clarita as equal parts cowboy and Hollywood. As for the 2000s, it's too early to say whose name will claim it. In the meantime, the spirit of Hart and the West remain relevant even now.
"Even the status of the word 'MALL' seemed fraught, because if it's a space where you can work and live and shop, is that a mall or a campus? Capitalist commune?"

Cowboy Festival
April is time for the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. It has been going on in one form or another for decades, and to this day, no one's really sure what it is. It began as the Cowboy Poetry Festival, but there has never been much appetite for poems about tumbleweeds, dust and longing. Before its home in Old Town Newhall, the festival took place at Melody Ranch, which wasn't a real Western town but a film studio. It's never been a rodeo, though that's what some people expect. It's also never been the cowboy version of a Renaissance Fair or Civil War Reenactment. Confusingly, though, some people do wear very authentic cowboy gear and get fully into character.
So what is the festival? This is a question perhaps best answered by immersion. Put on your cowboy hat and some jeans. Real-life cowboys and cowgirls will be around, some singing, some riding, some poeticizing, some roping and some scrolling through Instagram. Cows are usually around, too, most often in the form of tri-tip sandwiches and leather boots. A little buying, a little eating, a little wandering, and soon enough, you'll get it.

Ghost Town
The West's ghost towns are reminders that what once boomed can go bust. And while not exactly a ghost town, the (formerly-Westfield) Valencia Town Center is certainly not in its Golden Age either. There are still plenty of reasons to go visit, and many of your neighbors and their businesses would appreciate that. What everyone would appreciate even more is having fewer vacancies and less uncertainty. The location is too important to leave entirely to chance or even to its new owner and developer, Centennial, so the City of Santa Clarita has stepped in to help.
Late this winter, the City wrapped up some of its outreach to the community. Efforts were aimed at getting input about what the town center could become. Many of the ideas were still vague, with words like "balanced" and "mixed-use" popping up. Even the status of the word "mall" seemed fraught, because if it's a space where you can work and live and shop, is that a mall or a campus? Capitalist commune? Specifics and answers might not be what's most important, though. Simply demonstrating that Town Center is getting resources and attention may be reassuring enough.

Cowboys and Indians
Hart High was named for a cowboy and its mascot was the Indians. Over time, the Western cliche wore thin and became culturally untenable, and the mascot was retired in 2021. There were promises to do better. Many ideas were put forward, but the final choice came down to hawks or bison. The winner will be revealed this spring, but I give "Hawks" a 4-to-1 edge. Why so specific? Steve Petzold, a tireless community activist, accused the school district of ignoring nominations for "Warriors," and the debate grew enough that The Signal requested (and got) records. "Warriors" did get one more nomination than "Bison," but the school district and the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians thought it wasn't appropriate.
In any case, "Hawks" got about four times as many nominations as the next most popular options, so plan on hearing "Hart Hawks" in a football stadium near you. The debate between eagles and buffalo also seems trivial in the wake of news that the district plans to lay-off 50 teachers and 30 other staff members. Major budget issues mean tough decisions are upon us. Claritans heart their Hart District schools and teachers, so let's hope for the best.
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions and catty comments intended for the author can be e-mailed to iheartscv@insidescv.com.
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