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La Colonia Festival Celebrates Drug- and Alcohol-Free Life


Watching his 2-year-old daughter tear into messy, buttery corn on the cob, Agustin Abarca said Sunday's drug- and alcohol-free celebration in Oxnard was the kind of community event he liked to go to with his young children.

"This is good for the kids," said Abarca, 27. "It's good for them to see people having fun without alcohol."

Abarca, his wife, Martha, 26, and daughters Alexandra, 2, and Valerie, 11 months, were among the thousands who visited Del Sol Park on Sunday to celebrate Tardeada en el Parque Sin Alcohol y Drogas, or Festival in the Park Without Alcohol and Drugs.

The event was sponsored by the Colonia Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drugs. Officials said they expected 7,000 people to attend.

The coalition, formed about eight months ago to fight substance abuse in the low-income La Colonia neighborhood, is made up of members from the La Colonia Village Tenants Assn., Oxnard Police Department, Oxnard Housing Authority, Ventura County Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, and El Concilio del Condado de Ventura.

Radio Lazer, a Spanish-language radio station, also participated in the event, playing music from loudspeakers while professional dancers performed on the grass. Booths sold food or promoted local commercial or civic organizations, such as a photography studio, health agency and Ventura College.

"We want to promote a clean and sober community event," said Noelia Chavez, coordinator of El Concilio's community health education programs. "This is a kickoff to show the community what can be done if the community gets involved."

Organizers said part of the point, too, was to impress on children that they could have fun without drugs or alcohol. Some teen-agers, however, weren't sure that it would have an effect beyond the youngest children.

"It's weird that they're doing this right here in Colonia," said Maria Barajas, 16. "Right here, this is where the homies live, and they'll probably come here and (shoot up drugs) in front of people. I don't think it'll change anything, though it might help the little kids."

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