Spawned in 1960 to bring together the various factions of a rural community, the Oxnard Sports Festival has evolved into an extravaganza that will embrace more than 4,000 participants and 20,000 spectators during the next three weeks.
Volunteers and local businesses are essential to the success of the festival, but the Oxnard Parks and Recreation Dept. remains the backbone of its organization. And although the number and type of events has varied--the festival originally included a livestock show--its focus has remained the same.
"Every summer the people of Oxnard and surrounding communities have the opportunity to join together in a broad range of recreational activities," said Lou Haake, chairman of the Oxnard Parks and Recreation Dept. "It's a celebration, really."
The department really celebrated in 1986 when the festival received the California Parks and Recreation Society's Outstanding Special Event Award.
Haake says the festival has remained successful because it has changed as the city has changed. Events are added or discarded depending upon community interest.
"We keep the events that draw people," Haake said. "We've had everything from the livestock show to paddle-boarding and sand buggies at Oxnard Shores."
The trend toward fitness has influenced this year's slate of 20 events. New events are a Twilight 5K run and a 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk, open to all levels of runners, Aug. 2 at Oxnard State Beach Park.
Many events, including youth baseball and adult softball, have endured since the inception of the festival.
The men's minor softball tournament, one of three softball tournaments in the festival, will open the first weekend at Adair, Clark, Driffill and Beck fields.
Youth baseball will begin Saturday and continue every day for three weeks. Games in three divisions will be held at Durley Park.
Also beginning Saturday is a soccer tournament, conducted by the American Youth Soccer Organization and composed of five divisions for youths ages 6-18. Other events this weekend include a horseshoe tournament at the Community Center Park and a lawn bowling tournament at Wilson Center.
Several events begin the weekend of July 30-31. These include the co-ed softball tournament, men's open basketball tournament, Ventura County Grand Prix tennis tournament, a table tennis tournament and surfing competition.
The final weekend brings a youth basketball tournament at Oxnard and Channel Islands highs, the men's major softball tournament, a rough-water swim and a bicycle race.
Events held before the official festival opening included the City golf championships at River Ridge Golf Course and a boxing show at the Oxnard Community Center.