SANTA CLARITA – The city’s annual Cowboy Festival takes place this weekend at Melody Ranch, the picturesque film set for the retired show “Deadwood.” Only problem is you can’t take pictures – no cameras are allowed at the ranch. The production company made the rule; the city enforces it. “It was a condition for allowing the festival to take place there that no photos or video be taken,” said an HBO spokeswoman, who would not identify herself. “The mandate comes from the production company.” This marks the 14th year festival-goers will be tempted to capture the vibrant scene on film but can’t. The popular annual event features Western music, cowboy poetry, storytelling and refreshments. “The production company is kind enough to allow us to go ahead and have the Cowboy Festival, they just have a couple of regulations that help them,” said Candy Veluzat, wife of Andre Veluzat, who co-owns the ranch with his brothers. “We’re glad to abide by it.” The city pays the Veluzats $25,000 for the site and the family derives profits from liquor concessions. In past years the festival has finished in the red but the city figures to at least break even this year, Ortiz said. Estimates for the weekend crowd last year range from 6,000 to 8,000. Dozens of city staff members and volunteers mill about, answering questions and enforcing the rules – which can be hard when so many carry cell phones embedded with digital cameras. Re-enactors – folks dressed and often coiffed elaborately in period garb, sometimes portraying real people – stroll among the T-shirted masses. They’re not part of the event, though many are members of groups such as the Mojave Muleskinners, Gunfighters for Hire or Lawdogs and Ladies, who perform skits at other venues. Onlookers often gawk and many amble up, hoping to capture a group shot on film. Shutterbugs are shooed away by the enforcers. “Folks want to take pictures of the kids in front of the blacksmith, the old fashioned saloon – it can be very frustrating (when they) want to take pictures of the family enjoying day and are told `no cameras,”‘ Ortiz said, noting the admonition is always polite. “We don’t string them up for bringing their camera.” A member of the Santa Clarita Valley Photographers Association who wishes he could peer through the lens obediently follows the rules instead. “It would be wonderful if I could have that opportunity but I completely understand why,” said David Saffir, who’s attended the festival before and might go this weekend. “As a professional photographer, I’m very sympathetic to their wanting to protect their business – it’s a difficult situation.” Some private property owners allow picture-taking but demand signed agreements that photos won’t be published without prior written consent, he said. The HBO spokeswoman did not know if the sets are registered by copyright or trademark. A legal expert unfamiliar with the matter said forbidding photography could involve several issues, copyright protections among them. “It is possible certain elements of the set are copyrightable,” said Daniel Klerman, a professor of law and history at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. In that case, people who take pictures could be breaking the law. Emmy-Award winning “Deadwood” ceased production in June 2006 after three seasons. A new HBO show about the trials and tribulations of a family of California surfers, “John From Cincinnati,” is being filmed at the ranch – and on location in San Diego. David Milch, executive producer of both shows, plans to finish shooting the final episodes of “Deadwood,” perhaps when “John” goes on hiatus. Daily festival tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-11. Two-day weekend passes cost $30 for adults and $15 for children, and a Friends of the Festival Package, which includes amenities, costs $150 a person. For $40, visitors get behind-the-scenes tours. A shuttle ferries visitors from satellite parking lots. Information is available at www.cowboyfestival.org. [email protected] (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Exterior sets absent of props and set dressing remain for the show’s final episodes due to be filmed there someday – and the production company wants to protect its proprietary interests. The city has considered other venues but the unique location consistently trumps the competition. “When we looked at having the Cowboy Festival on private property, we had to weigh a lot of things,” said Gail Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the city. “You can’t park there, take pictures, the city doesn’t have a liquor license – we break all the rules of having a (city event.)” Years before “Deadwood” staked its claim, “The Lone Ranger,” “Gunsmoke” and “Cisco Kid” were filmed there. The ranch’s owners sponsor the yearly event and don’t mind the picture-taking ban.