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Moving Days

Simi Valley Fair Relocates, Shrinks but Popular KowChip Bingo Isn't Tossed


SIMI VALLEY — At first glance, you might not recognize this year's Simi Valley Days.

Naturally, the event will boast plenty of music, rides, a parade and tri-tip sandwiches.

But because of technical troubles earlier this summer, this year's Simi Valley Days will be smaller and minus a rodeo. For this year only, the festivities--which begin in earnest today, and run through Sunday--will take place at Tapo and Eileen streets.

Also contributing to the western-themed festival's new look will be fresh activities to entertain the 25,000 to 30,000 residents expected to attend.

This year, along with popular standards like KowChip Bingo and a hoedown, carnival-goers will see an ugly dog contest, a karaoke competition and a battle of the bands for the 21-and-under set.

With nods to Simi Valley's past and present, the celebration will include rural elements--tractors rumbling through the town's parade--and urban ones--hipster teens noshing on Thai food.

"It's amazing how many people you see at Simi Valley Days that you haven't seen in years," said Andy Macek, co-chairman of the Simi Valley Days organization. "What we try to do is make it like a small town carnival of years ago."

That mission became infinitely tougher this year.

Putting Simi Valley Days together is always a labor of love, fueled by dozens of volunteers. Except for one paid staffer, the folks who coordinate the carnival, road race, parade, barn dance and other happenings don't earn a penny. Their payoff is seeing the not-for-profit event raise thousands of dollars for local charities.

Last year's festival took in $60,000 for charities that help the city's youth, senior citizens, schools, parks, the homeless, teachers and police.

But this year, the volunteers had to do all the usual planning--and go house-hunting to boot.

Until July, Simi Valley Days was slated to occur at the city's regional mall site, at the Ronald Reagan Freeway and 1st Street. That is where next year's Simi Valley Days is scheduled to happen.

However, that site couldn't be used without substantial grading to level out the hilly land. The Operating Engineers Training Trust earlier this year agreed to flatten the land for free, as practice for its heavy equipment operators. But, tied up with a previous project, the union couldn't grade the mall site in time for Simi Valley Days.


So festival organizers scrambled to find a new site. They settled on a Tapo Street location that was too small for the traditional Simi Valley Days Rodeo. So the rodeo became a casualty of the move, as did the chili cook-off and the classic car show.

"This year was a real challenge," Macek said. "Up to two, three months ago, we didn't have any idea where we'd be--period."

But the event still has much going for it, he said.

New this year are the battle of the bands, ugly dog contest and karaoke contest, coordinated by entertainment chairwoman Jacquie Richardson of the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley.

Simi Valley residents will meet the home-grown alternative rockers of bands including Needful Things, Civil Syntax and Mad Opera at the battle of the bands.

While the event is meant to lure more teenagers to Simi Valley Days, it won't offend the toddlers or older listeners, Richardson said.

"I previewed all of the band tapes," she said. "No mosh, no punk, no vulgarity."

For those who favor mutts over music, Richardson recommends the dog contest, in which pedigree-less pooches--and their humans--get a chance to preen.

Judges will decide which dog is the ugliest, does the best trick, looks most like its owner and is best in show.

For the traditionalists, Simi Valley Days will still feature a Saturday morning parade, 5K and 10K races on Sunday morning and enough rides to satisfy youngsters with cast-iron bellies, organizers say.

The ever-popular KowChip Bingo is a hot ticket among people who are comfortable with Simi Valley's rural heritage (read: folks who aren't easily grossed out).

In the event, a plot of land is divided into 3,000 2-foot by 2-foot squares. For $5, anyone can buy a "deed" to a plot of land. On Saturday afternoon, five well-fed cows will be set loose on the plot and nature will take its course.


The event's mystique is explained by Brian Gabler, a deputy city manager and president of Kiwanis Club of Santa Susana:

"You've got a couple hundred people in the bleachers, cheering on the cows," he said. "And then, it's that final moment of anticipation waiting for things to happen."

The first plop wins some lucky attendee $1,000. The second is worth $750, the third earns $500 and the fourth is valued at $250. Proceeds go to the Kiwanis Club of Santa Susana.

Whatever your fancy, Simi Valley Days Executive Director Jo Ann Macek promises fun.

"When you leave Simi Valley Days, you will have had a good time in a comfortable environment," she said. "But you won't be fighting any crowds--it's not Disneyland."


Simi Valley Days Events

Pull on your boots and grab the kiddies, it's time for Simi Valley Days. Here's the event rundown:


5 to 10 p.m.: Carnival

6 to 8 p.m.: Battle of the Bands


5 to 10 p.m.: Carnival

7 to 10 p.m.: Karaoke Competition


5 to midnight: Carnival

8 to 11 p.m.: Tapo Street Hoedown


9 to 11 a.m.: Simi Valley Days Parade

Noon to 1:15 p.m.: Parade Award Presentation

1 p.m.: KowChip Bingo

11 a.m. to midnight: Carnival


6 a.m.: 5K and 10K Runs

1:30 to 2:40 p.m.: Ugly Dog Contest

Noon to 10 p.m.: Carnival

All the festivities except the 5K and 10K charity runs will take place at the carnival site at Tapo and Eileen streets. The charity runs will begin at Sinaloa Plaza between 1st Street and Madera Road on Los Angeles Avenue.

Admission: $3 for adults, $1 for children between ages of 4 and 12 and people 55 or older. Ride tickets purchased separately. Tonight and Thursday night, $8 pays for admission and unlimited rides.

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