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Events Offer Sand, Sun, Celebration

Recreation: California Beach Festival and separate gay pride festival draw thousands to ocean-side venues.


VENTURA — Thousands of people strolled Ventura's beach-side Promenade on Saturday, enjoying food, fun and beach lounging at the California Beach Festival.

A mile to the south, at San Buenaventura State Beach, a smaller group of picnickers soaked up sun and surf at Ventura County Pride by the Sea, a gay pride celebration.

At the California Beach Festival, participants could choose from booths offering kites, jewelry, henna tattoos, sundresses and demonstrations from Ventura's Poinsettia Amateur Radio Club, whose members were on hand to help parents find lost children.

The festival continues from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the Promenade, next to the Ventura Pier, on Harbor Boulevard at California Street. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for seniors and children under 12.

Now in its 14th year, the festival is smaller than in previous years when hundreds of vendors lined the mile-long walkway. Even so, it drew praise from participants Saturday.

"It's nice down here, it's beautiful," said Eric Perrotto, 21, of Ojai, who brought his son, Chase, for balloon animals and face painting.

Julene Webb, 37, of Ventura brought her nieces Kasey Kelly, 12, and Nicole Stanley, 14, also of Ventura. The two girls got henna tattoos and a Frisbee, which they painted in pastel colors.

Ham radio operators from the Poinsettia Amateur Radio Club of Ventura set up a radio and a 66-foot antenna and listened in on Morse code conversations from as far away as Sweden and New Zealand.

Ventura artist MB Hanrahan invited passersby to paint her "Art Car," a Ford Festiva, which she plans to take to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

"So it can be with its other art car friends," Hanrahan joked.

The car has had several incarnations as an "Art Car," Hanrahan said. On Saturday, she and others painted over the car's former bold-colored design with a celestial theme in pastels, which Hanrahan called, "Cosmic Karma." The design represents the interdependence of all people and all things, she said.

Nearby at one of the festival's main stages, the Cornelius sisters, Becca, 17, Kristin, 15, Julianne, 11, and Shelly, 8, of Thousand Oaks, performed four-part harmony as the group, "C-4." Following them, young dancers from the Cecile Rogers Dance Studio in Oxnard donned black leotards and fire-engine-red skirts and tap-danced to swing music for the crowd.

K.O. Davis, 44, of Ventura was one of many people who lined up for henna tattoos at one of several booths offering the designs, which dye the skin for about two weeks.

Davis paid $25 to have an ornate armband painted on his right bicep, just to do something "a little different," he said.

"We've all got a little wild side," Davis said.

At San Buenaventura State Beach, a smaller crowd listened to music, danced and strolled among informational booths at the Ventura County Pride by the Sea celebration.

AIDS Project Ventura County, the Human Rights Campaign, a group dedicated to ending discrimination and violence against gays, and Prime Timers Central Coast, a mature gay men's social group, were among the organizations passing out fliers at the event.

Roger Benton, 40, drove up from Encino for the event, because it was next to the ocean and friends could stroll along the beach afterward, he said.

"Good food, friendly people," Benton said, "It's good to be out here on such a nice day."

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