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Fiesta Continues Lively Tradition at Olivas Adobe

A century ago, Don Raymundo Olivas was known for his parties. Festivities on Saturday at his historic home will include mariachis and kids' activities.


Don Raymundo Olivas loved a party. When he lived more than 100 years ago, he served up many a fiesta at his stately Ventura adobe home.

So it's only fitting that the historic home, now a city museum, should be the scene of a fiesta Saturday with everything from mariachi music to staged gunfights to quilt-making demonstrations.

Called Olivas Fiesta y El Mercado, the festivities run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Handmade items typical of the rancho period will go on sale at a special marketplace on the grounds beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors and children under 12.

The event kicks off a whole summer of musical entertainment--Riders of the Purple Sage and the Estrada Brothers, among others--at the Olivas Adobe, 7 to 9 p.m. Saturdays from July 6 to Aug. 31.

Saturday's activities will be a mix of things designed to give visitors a slice of life from the rancho period. Kids can try their hand at some of the traditional skills from that period--carving wood, tooling leather, making bread in an adobe oven, making string dolls, even washing clothes with a washboard.


At 4 p.m., children can sample another, more enjoyable tradition. Pinatas filled with treats will be strung up for them to smash open.

For an even livelier piece of action, the Western Professional Gunfighters--these are the guys who work in the movies--will reenact historic gunfights.

"They're loud and funny," said historian Richard Senate, who is coordinating the event.

The entertainment lineup includes classical guitarist Carlos Gonzales, flamenco dancers Sol y Luna, Chumash storyteller Julie Tumamait, Ballet Folklorico Regional, mariachi players Juvenil Azteca de Camarillo, and Native American dancers from Saticoy Youth Chumash.

The marketplace will be set up to display handcrafted items for sale: batik clothing, jewelry, painted saws and ceramic flutes.

Descendants of the Olivas family are likely to attend the fiesta, he said. There are many. Don Raymundo Olivas and his wife, Teodora, had a whopping 21 children during their 47 years of marriage.

Just like his home, Olivas was a remarkable man. He worked his way up from a post in the Mexican Army to become a prominent, savvy businessman. During his day, he was one of the richest people in Ventura County.

After 17 years of service with the Mexican Army, he received a land grant, 4,500 acres that stretched from the Santa Clara River to what is now the heart of Ventura. He put in crops and raised cattle. During the Gold Rush period, he made big money driving cattle north to Sacramento, where he sold them.

His two-story home, quite a showplace for the time, was built in the 1840s. It boasted a shingled roof, balcony and glassed windows. He entertained often and was active in the Republican Party. He even gave an inaugural ball for President Ulysses Grant.

"The man was a very wealthy individual and could afford the best of the 19th century," Senate said.


The house will be open for tours during Saturday's festivities. Visitors can see the upstairs room that served as a chapel where a priest from San Buenaventura Mission would hold Mass for the family and neighbors.

"We've fixed up the master bedroom," Senate said. "We've put in new things, bedding, quilts, that reflect [the period] more accurately."

The exhibit hall adjacent to the home has a new display about the Olivas family. Visitors can also take a tour of the herb garden where docents have planted many of the herbs used during the rancho period.


* WHAT: Olivas Fiesta y El Mercado.

* WHERE: Olivas Adobe, 4200 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura.

* WHEN: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

* HOW MUCH: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children under 12.

* CALL: 658-4726.


Here's the roundup of evening summer entertainment at the Olivas Adobe. Concert tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and children.

July 6: Acadiana (Cajun and zydeco)

July 13: Estrada Brothers (Latin jazz)

July 20: Cyrus Clarke Band (folk)

July 27: Nuestro (Latin jazz)

Aug. 3: Riders of the Purple Sage (cowboy music)

Aug. 10: Carlos Gonzales (classical Spanish guitar accompanies a silent movie with original score)

Aug. 17: Southern Cross (rural folk music with Afro-Cuban rhythms)

Aug. 24: Iron Mountain Boys (bluegrass)

Aug. 31: Conjunto Hueyapan (music from Vera Cruz)

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