1,000 Visit Ranch for Wild West Days

Chatsworth resident Bambi Franzen, who grew up in Texas, is no stranger to a good-old fashioned country-western hoedown and barbecue.

So she felt right at home during the Wild, Wild West Days festival at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth over the weekend.

The festival featured nonstop entertainment with country music, line dancing, memorabilia from the Hollywood's Western era and, what event coordinator Michele Bastin referred to as "the best dang barbecue and eats around."

"All this is familiar stuff to me," said Franzen, who attended Sunday with her husband Don.

More than 1,000 people attended the two-day festival, sponsored by the California Country Music Assn., Timeless Video in Chatsworth and the Simi Valley-based Trail Riders of the West, an organization that works toward the preservation of old movies, said co-organizer Craig Sprout.

Proceeds will go to the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Happy Trails Children's Foundation to benefit abused and neglected youth, Sprout said.

The ranch's Cowboy Walk of Fame, which features more than 200 celebrity hand and foot prints, received five new entries Sunday headlined by Herb Jeffries, a.k.a the "Bronze Buckaroo," the first African American singing cowboy. The other inductees were actors Ermal Williamson and Dale Parks and actresses Peggy Stewart and Ann Robinson.

During its 86-year history, the ranch served as the venue for more than 2,700 movies and television shows, Bastin said.

However, the ranch has remained largely a mystery to even local residents. It was opened to the public for the first time during the first Wild, Wild West Days in 1996.

But new owner Van Swearingen, who bought the property 14 months ago, hinted that the ranch will be made more accessible to the public.

"The reason why my wife and I purchased it is so that people can enjoy it because the place has so much history in it," Swearingen said. "We're hoping to make Wild, Wild West Days an annual event."

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