NORTH EAST — Next month, horses at Fairwinds Farm & Stables will be primping their manes and practicing neighing their lines as they prepare to be featured in a new movie, “Hope’s Legacy.”
“Hope’s Legacy” will be the sequel to “Christmas Ranch,” which followed Lizzy (played by Taylor Lyons), a rebellious girl whose family sends her to her grandmother’s horse ranch for Christmas where she bonds with one of her grandmother’s horses, Hope, and fights to save the farm from foreclosure.
Showtime, Netflix and other video providers have featured “Christmas Ranch” since the movie premiered in 2016.
In this sequel, Lizzy returns to the farm after her grandmother’s death and decides to start eventing the horse. Lizzy will also get married to her love interest from the first movie, James (played by Allen Williamson), according to JoAnn Dawson, who owns Fairwinds Farm with her husband, Ted.
In fact, Lyons and Williamson actually got married in real life after working on “Christmas Ranch” together.
Dawson said “Hope’s Legacy” is fun for all ages and comes with a good message.
“It’s a feel-good, Hallmark-type of movie, very family-friendly,” she said.
Acting as Lizzy’s grandmother’s friend will be Dyan Cannon, who has earned Academy Award nominations for “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” “Number One,” and “Heaven Can Wait.”
Dawson herself will also have a small part in the movie, acting as James’s mother in a couple short scenes.
As a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, Dawson has worked in film and television as an actress, wrangler and animal handler, with credits in “The Sixth Sense,” “Veep,” and “House of Cards” among other productions.
According to Dawson, “Hope’s Legacy” director Doug Maddox contacted her about shooting scenes for the movie at Fairwinds Farm after he heard about the location from several people involved with the horse industry, including Ross Peddicord, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
While Maddox was at Fairwinds Farm scouting locations for the film, Dawson auditioned for him and got her part.
Fairwinds Farm is a horse discovery center, working with everyone from Girl Scouts troops and 4-H groups to tourists and anyone else who wants to learn more about the horse industry.
“A horse discovery center is a stable that opens its doors to the public coming in to learn about horses,” Dawson said.
Although “Christmas Ranch” and “Hope’s Legacy” are fictional stories, Dawson said the movies mirror some of the life-changing experiences young people find at Fairwinds Farm.
Dawson is part of the Cecil County Neighborhood Youth Panel, a juvenile diversion program which allows first-time juvenile misdemeanor offenders to do community service instead of entering the juvenile justice system.
Some of those young people do community service at Fairwinds Farm, where Dawson said they find the value of hard work alongside the animals.
“They come here to the farm and at first they’re like, ‘I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to work.’ But after awhile they really start loving working on the farm. They can see their accomplishments at the end of the day and they like working with the animals,” she said.