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Kids Kick Up Their Heels in Conejo Valley Days Parade

April 21, 1996|NICK GREEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — Small was beautiful on Saturday as a procession of peewee cowpokes, diminutive dogs and pint-size ponies participated in the Conejo Valley Days Children's Parade.

A little covered wagon, mini-floats, tykes on trikes and a tiny tribe of Indians were among the 40 entries in the petite procession that meandered along paths in front of the Civic Arts Plaza.

In fact, about the only thing not small was the record turnout of about 1,000 spectators and the gusto of the 300 youngsters participating.

"It's better this year than it's been any other year," said parade co-chairwoman Pat Alexander. "There's more enthusiasm on the part of the kids."

The parade is one of several precursors to the valley's annual homage to its rural past that breaks into full gallop Wednesday, when the fair opens at Conejo Creek Park.

Among the most elaborate parade entries Saturday were the Conejo Kicking Can-Cans, a dance troupe from the Waverly Heights neighborhood that accompanied an outsize, kid-powered cowboy boot mounted on a supermarket cart.

"The [fair's] theme is 'Western Kicks in '96,' and we've got Conejo Kicking Can-Cans and a kicking boot, so how much more kicking can you get?" said mother D. J. Greene.

The whole thing was obviously a kick for the six performers, who attacked the parade route with a zest worthy of the floor show at Radio City Music Hall.

"It's fun and you get exercise," said dancer Felicia Giammanco, 7.

One of the biggest crowd pleasers was Emily Brough, 9, at the reins of a micro-buggy pulled by her miniature horse and accompanied by her aunt, Carol Roman, who clutched a 9-week-old Labrador puppy, Sandy. Emily looked every bit the turn-of-the-century lady in a white lace dress.

"What's interesting is she's out of a Romanian orphanage," said mom Cindy Brough. "She's been here four years. It was one trip to Toys R Us and she was Americanized."

Not everyone observed the traditional Western-flavored theme.

The 10 members of Brownie Troop 470 from Meadows Elementary School came as a platoon of Little Orphan Annies, complete with smudged faces and brooms.

"It's a stretch, but it is offering more diversity to the parade," said Kim Myre, mom of one of the Annies.

As did a couple of entrants who emphasized environmental themes in recognition of Earth Day, which will be marked on Monday.

Accompanied by "Roxy, the recycling robin," several members of Los Cerritos Connections, an environmental club at the middle school of the same name, wandered the trail route adorned with strings of tin cans.

"Aluminum, aluminum, here's the plan, recycle those containers, everybody can," chanted the young activists and sixth-grade teacher Sherrill Hyink.

Meanwhile, George Brooks, 4, of Westlake Village abandoned his "steed"--actually a bicycle--in favor of a buddy's motorized car. That left mom Sherry Brooks to dutifully bring up the rear with her son's now-riderless "horse."

"I lost him to high-tech," she said.

Brooks wasn't the only adult to be stripped of every last vestige of dignity by his or her offspring.

A squad of dads huffed and puffed as they pushed a child-filled float. Hapless moms danced along as their progeny performed long-practiced song-and-dance routines for the judges.

"They lose all their inhibitions," observed Tom Hartin, Conejo Valley Days chairman. "They become children themselves."

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