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FOR THE KIDS

History in the Making

Discover Gold Rush activities on the grounds of Olivas Adobe.

June 25, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

These days, "Get Up and Get It" might be the name of vitamin supplements or the title of a book on corporate takeovers. But in the last century, especially during California's Gold Rush era, such a slogan would have been the name of a town. Such labels were intended to be inspirational, as in Gold Hill, or occasionally graphic, as in the town of Bed Bug, according to Ventura historian Richard Senate.

This Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., kids can visit a local mining boomtown called Get Up and Get It. If you haven't heard of it, that's because the place is now being established on the grounds of historic Olivas Adobe in Ventura. It's going to be a re-creation, complete with boomtown characters in costume and an area where kids can learn the art of gold-panning.

This boomtown, a feature of a California Sesquicentennial-themed event at Olivas Adobe, will be set up and then abandoned about as fast as real-life tent cities were 150 years ago. The other features of Sunday's "Olivas Fiesta Ole"' will be family-oriented demonstrations of crafts from the Gold Rush period, beginning at 10 a.m., plus folkloric dance, guitar and fiddle music and Western storytelling.

The historical reenactors, playing roles such as frontier judge, bad guy, gold miner and storekeeper, will include Richard Senate, Bill Gordon, Leif Ingeswick and Karen Kennedy.

Kennedy, boomtown organizer and proprietor of a company that puts on such events for local schools, plays the merchant Widow Culp.

When folks, especially kids, go to her "store" Sunday, she says, she will "treat them as though they've just arrived in town," offering them eggs at 1849 prices, $1 each (the equivalent of $50 today), and demanding to be paid in gold dust. Because her patrons won't have any gold, she'll take pity on them and "grubstake" them by extending credit.

If people suggest they can't repay her, Kennedy will probably point out Bill Gordon, dressed as a sinister enforcer operating under the name O'Gorman. Then she'll say, "Well, we have O'Gorman here."

Other perils of Gold Rush living will be evident. At noon will be a series of mock trials--of horse thieves, pickpockets and claim jumpers--with members of the public, including kids, invited to be the jury. Senate, who acts as Judge Leadbottom, expects that, "In the tradition of the Old West, these trials will be very short."

At 1 p.m., a unit of dragoons, in Army uniforms from the Mexican-American War, led by Thousand Oaks military-history enthusiast Paul DeNublio, will arrive and demonstrate a cannon nicknamed Whistling Nellie.

The area where children can pan for gold will be open all day, as will sites where they can try their hand at writing letters with a quill pen just as 49ers did, or sample the pleasures of a dirt-floored bowling alley of the era. The bravest of the kids will get a chance to do laundry at a demonstration site using the methods of 150 years ago.

A "Western Gunfighter's Show" will take place between 3:30 and 4 p.m., and pinatas will be hung out for kids to "get up and get."

BE THERE

"Olivas Fiesta Ole," music, craft show and Gold Rush boomtown, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at historic Olivas Adobe, 4200 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura. $3 for kids 12 and under, $5 for adults. (805) 658-4726.

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