About 100 youths from Saticoy and Cabrillo Village gathered Monday at Fritz Huntsinger Park to compete in outdoor games, eat hot dogs and win T-shirts.
The event, organized jointly by Ventura city and county officials, was intended to bring the neighboring communities closer together.
"There's not a lot of interaction between the areas, and we thought we'd try to change that," said Andrew M. Oshita, manager of county parks administration and planning.
"There have been some problems between the areas and we're trying to bring something positive to the kids," said Roberta Payan, director of the Westpark Recreation Center in Ventura. "Not all the kids in Cabrillo Village or Saticoy are gang members. They are kids looking for acceptance."
Once the games got under way, the participants mixed easily with their teammates, competing in a range of activities on the lush green lawn of the park at Saticoy and Telephone roads.
Team leader Tony Arana, 20, of Cabrillo Village shouted encouragement to Angelica Flores, 11, and Adrian Ruiz, 8, of Saticoy as they deftly guided a soccer ball through an obstacle course.
"It's a good chance to mingle and get to know people you wouldn't otherwise meet," Arana said.
Throughout the day's events, a small knot of boys from Cabrillo Village clustered around a picnic table nearby and refused to join the games.
"They said they would only play if they stay together," Oshita said. "But I wouldn't let them because the whole point is to have them break away from their own circles and be with other kids."
The boys confirmed that they were sitting out the games to protest not being allowed to play together. But 11-year-old Jesus Munoz began to lose his resolve and tried to get his friends to join the games.
"Let's go Marcos, c'mon," Jesus urged.
"In a minute, man," Marcos Martinez, 13, said as he slouched on a picnic bench and made no move to accompany his friend. "You go, I'll be there in a minute."
Jesus wandered over to the crowd of children, eyed them as they laughed, squealed and rushed to stuff each other's shirts full of balloons, and then walked back to the picnic table.
"We don't like those games," Jesus said as he rejoined his friend on the picnic bench. "We like baseball and basketball."