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'Tis the Season for Halloween Hauntings

October 27, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

This is the season when everyone seems to be all dressed up with someplace to go. Especially here in Ventura County: Last week, the fancy-dress crowd gathered for festivities commemorating the grand opening of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza; this week, the fancifully dressed will gather in the streets for Halloween celebrations.

While local civic leaders and luminaries hobnobbed over hors d'oeuvres and champagne, hobgoblins were getting ready to exchange Snickers and Mars bars with assorted pals from the afterlife, including some witches, skeletons, ghosts, a few timely and clever Medflies and at least one Elvis.

Free-lance writer Leo Smith met several local ghouls--all of them adults--for this week's Centerpiece story on those nice neighbors among us who roll out the unwelcome wagon (or tombstone, or coffin, or hearse) to encourage community spirit(s).

"People really get into this holiday," Smith said. "Adults try to bring back the thrills and frights of Halloween as they remember it when they were children. Some plan well in advance for this one night, and others are pretty ready all year long."

For this story, Smith talked to just a handful of people, but the county, he believes, is positively alive with agents of the living dead. In some cases, it is the guy down the street who just really gets into it; in other cases, it is an organized event put on by such places as the Olivas Adobe or such organizations as the local Jaycees.

"It seems that almost every neighborhood has at least one resident Freddy Kreuger ready and willing to torment the local children and scare the sheets off them," Smith said.

For one block in Santa Paula, the night will be more rockin' than shockin'. That is where J. R. Shropshire dons one of his several Elvis costumes for a night of trick or treating followed by hip-swiveling entertainment.

Which isn't to suggest that Shropshire possesses less than his fair share of the macabre.

"Last year, he was Werewolf Elvis," Smith said. "And he did mention that he met his wife Terri at a funeral."

Happy Haunting.

As one of the many who filled the concert hall of the Civic Arts Plaza to see and hear the Conejo Symphony Orchestra perform with Bernadette Peters, I was delighted to see the level of community support for this potentially world-class cultural complex.

And as one who watched the birth of the facility as it struggled to find an identity, a shape and a purpose in a somewhat awkward site next to the Ventura Freeway, I was amazed to see it in its finished state--clean, elegant and glittering under the light of a waning moon and the warmth of a welcoming crowd. It was all dressed up and some place to go.

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