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Canejo Valley Days, 1997

Festival Gets Gusty Greeting Opening Night

April 24, 1997|CHRIS CHI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — The 41st annual Conejo Valley Days festival blew into town Wednesday, with strong gusts moving across the carnival midway on opening night.

The intermittent winds kicked up dust at Conejo Creek Park and shot through tents, while dozens of carnival flags flapped wildly.

At game booths, stuffed Elmos ready to be tickled and Tazmanian Devils strung up as prizes swayed in the evening breeze. The scents of carnival snacks, from buttered popcorn to fried dough, wafted far from food stands.

David Cockroft, who was holding a cluster of 20 colorful balloons that sold for as much as $8 each, said he felt as if he could be swept away by the robust gusts, which reached 30 mph. "It's hard on the balloons," said Cockroft, who got into the spirit of the fair by wearing clown makeup and a cowboy hat. "It wants to take me away with them."

By sunset, the wind had died down considerably. Meanwhile, many who enjoyed some of the carnival's 42 rides said they didn't mind the weather.

Stepping off the Quasar, a giant wheel that whipped riders around to the sounds of heavy metal music, 14-year-old Cody Sumen of Thousand Oaks had to catch his breath.

"It makes you feel like you're gonna lose your stomach," he said. "You don't know if you're gonna hit the wall or not. Being airborne gets the adrenaline going."

Other rides promised to be just as gut-wrenching.

The Casino, a roulette-wheel shaped platter, spun revelers around. And the Yo-Yo, which swung riders in circles 2O feet above ground, delighted many others.

Joe Blash, who was hired by festival organizers to provide the rides, said Wednesday afternoon that the winds didn't appear strong enough to cause concern. The weather tonight is expected to be similar to Wednesday's, with winds blowing between 20 and 30 mph, but subsiding later in the evening.

"For most of the rides, I guess it would enhance it," Blash said. "You feel a little wind in your hair."

Those who weren't there for the rides found plenty of alternatives. Dozens of food vendors sold various snacks, from teriyaki beef to strawberry shortcake.

And a big tent at the front gate houses a flea market selling everything from psychic readings for $10 to life insurance.

"This really is a major event for the community," said Martha James of MetLife, which was promoting its financial services in the tent. "It's good exposure to thousands of people in the community for a five-day period."

Festival organizers described the opening night attendance of about 3,000 as the calm before the storm, a precursor to the really big crowds expected tonight and through the weekend. About 55,000 guests are anticipated through Sunday.

A sharp boost in attendance is expected this evening, which is Conejo Valley Days Family Night. A wristband for unlimited rides is available for $5. On other nights during the festival, individual rides cost from $1 to $3, organizers said.

June Wimer, who has helped organize the past 30 festivals, said the real excitement starts tonight.

"You can't even move," she said. "Nobody faints, because there's no place to fall down."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Conejo Valley Days Events All events are held at Conejo Creek Park, Moorpark Freeway and Janss Road, unless otherwise noted. Carnival admission is $5 adults, $3 senior citizens and students, $2 children 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. On all nights except tonight's Family Night, receive $1 off admission price for taking shuttle bus from Newbury Park or Thousand Oaks high schools. TODAY

Noon: Interservice club luncheon, Joseph's on the Green, $18

5 to 10 p.m.: Carnival Family Night, admission is $3 adults, $2 senior citizens and students, $1 children 6 to 12, $5 unlimited ride wristbands

6:45 p.m.: Wild Heart, main stage

7 p.m.: Children's entertainment

7:30 p.m.: Country-western star Juice Newton, main stage

FRIDAY

9 a.m. to noon: Invitation-only event for handicapped children, midway

5 p.m. to midnight: Carnival

5 to 10 p.m.: Bingo

7 p.m.: Your Moose, main stage

8 p.m.: The Turtles, main stage

10:30 p.m.: Lizards of Wisdom, main stage

SATURDAY

9 a.m.: Parade, Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Duesenberg Drive to Erbes Road

Noon to midnight: Carnival

Noon to 6 p.m.: Western pit barbecue, $6 adults, $4.50 children

1:30 and 4:40 p.m.: Rodeo

2 to 10 p.m.: Bingo

7 p.m.: Singer Chrissy Lomax, main stage

8:30 p.m.: Singer Eddie Money, main stage

10:30 p.m.: Peter and the Wolves, main stage

SUNDAY

Noon to 8 p.m.: Carnival

Noon to 6 p.m.: Western pit barbecue, $6 adults, $4.50 children

Noon to 8 p.m.: Bingo

1 and 4 p.m.: Rodeo

1 p.m.: Paul DeLay Band, main stage

3 p.m.: Bruce Brothers Band, main stage

5 p.m.: Flattop Tom and His Jumpcats, main stage

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