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Ruling allows for myriad fundraisers

Posted: January 11, 2011 12:43 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2011 4:55 a.m.

“Star Trek” has its Trekkies.

Charlie Chaplin fans have the ChaplinFest, an upcoming fundraiser scheduled for William S. Hart Park early next month.

Thanks to the court ruling on the will of William S. Hart, park officials have been granted the right to raise funds to help preserve the olden ways.

It’s a good thing, says Regional Park Superintendent Norman Phillips, since it’s not cheap to maintain the property once called “home” by one of the most famous silent Western film stars.

“Chaplin has a humongous following,” Phillips said during an interview Monday. “They’re like Trekkies the way they follow Chaplin.”

Park officials and the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s classic film “Modern Times,” which is considered by many to be the last major film of the silent-movie era.

Local historians are making the most of Santa Clarita Valley’s historic role in the film’s production, touting the fact that the movie’s final scene was shot, they say, on Sierra Highway just 20 minutes from Hart’s ranch and home.

ChaplinFest is the latest in a series of fundraisers initiated since the court ruling, Phillips said.

More than 10,000 people showed up for last year’s Bow Wows & Meows Pet Fair, according to Phillips.

“Last year, 154 animals found homes — the largest they ever had,” he said.

The park’s annual summer Silents Under The Stars event, during which silent films are shown, is regularly sold out.

Park officials open up their vast hilly acreage to local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, too.

And the money they make from renting out their hall for weddings and meetings pays for much of the renovations under way.

“We’re spending about $850,000 to redo the roof of the museum, about $350,000 of that is begin paid from rental of the hall,” Phillips said.

As well, the park’s annual Pow Wow highlighting the culture of Indigenous American tribes every summer not only brings in money but is in keeping with the spirit of William S. Hart, Phillips said.

“He grew up in Minnesota and he understood the Sioux language,” Phillips said. “He told Thomas Ince, the big Western movie producer, that he was portraying Westerns the wrong way.”


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