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Weekend Squeeze

Fillmore Orange Festival is one of three major entertainment events to enjoy.


It's springtime, which means that nearly every city, group and organization will be wanting you to do stuff nearly every weekend for the next several months.

This weekend, those seeking diversion out on California 126 will find plenty of activities in the form of the Fillmore Orange Festival and the First Weekend in Santa Paula.

The first commercial orange grove was planted in Fillmore by Caswell Carl Elkins in 1889, and the Santa Clara River Valley community has thrived since, thanks to the juicy fruit. In 1897, the Fillmore Citrus Fruit Assn. was formed (it later became Sunkist Growers) and it built the city's first orange packinghouse at the corner of Sespe Avenue and A Street on property that cost $50.

Fillmore has the perfect climate for oranges--both Valencias and navels. And unlike Orange County, Fillmore has lots of oranges, far outnumbering the 13,000 residents of the city. "The last, best little town in Southern California" has made the Orange Festival a local tradition since 1917.

The fun will kick off today at 3:30 p.m., when the carnival, featuring about 20 rides, opens in Central Park. Even before oranges, Fillmore had trains, and kids with more money can take a ride on the Fillmore & Western Railroad through the orange groves to Santa Paula.

The town itself is named for Jerome Fillmore, onetime superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which first rumbled through town in 1887. Although the last commercial passenger train came through in 1935, the Fillmore & Western is alive and well, with train rides beginning daily at 10:30 a.m.

Saturday activities begin at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the Memorial Building. The Orange Festival Parade will begin three hours later. Participants will include Miss Fillmore, Miss Teen Fillmore and the co-citizens of the year, Shirley Spitler, the city's economic development coordinator, and Pat Askren, the volunteer fire captain.

There are numerous historic buildings and sights to see, as the festival is held in the old downtown area of the city. The festival traditionally includes numerous food and arts and crafts booths along Central Avenue. Recommended munchies include the tri-tip barbecue and orange chicken.

A wide variety of musical acts will provide the soundtrack for the weekend. The festival and parking are free. The carnival costs a buck, and train rides are $16 round-trip for adults and $8 for kids under 12.

According to Fillmore local Joe Woods, who's been to more than 20 Orange Festivals, "It's Fillmore. It's a family thing."


Fillmore Orange Festival, today through Sunday, Central Avenue. Hours: today and Friday, 3:30-10 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Music: Friday, Johnny Jacinto Band (5 p.m.), Danny Torres & the Piru River Band (10 p.m.); Saturday, Crossfire (noon), Larry Dean and the Shooters (3 p.m.) and Caught Red-Handed (7 p.m.); Sunday, Nuestro (11 a.m.), Chris Keith (2 p.m.) and Sound Effect (5 p.m.); free; 525-9820.


Also home to lots of oranges, "the citrus capital of the world" will host the First Weekend in Santa Paula. Highlights include a Cinco de Mayo celebration, a car show on Main Street, two farmers' markets, an art walk, tours of the aviation museum and downtown murals, walking tours, plus train rides on the ever-reliable Fillmore & Western.

The Cinco de Mayo wingding will begin Friday at 5 p.m. at the Santa Paula Family Resource Center. Dinner will be served an hour later with the Folklorico Tepeyac dance group performing at 6:30. Father Gregory Boyle will address the throng at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12--call 525-6616 to find out more.

"Cruise Night," one of the few nights gearheads can show off their rides without fear of one of those embarrassing conversations with the cops, will begin Friday at 6 p.m., the traditional cruise night, on Main Street between 8th and Mill streets. This sea of heavy metal will be sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Paula Peace Officers Assn. All kinds of show cars, muscle cars, street rods and antique cars are expected. For more information, call 525-4474.

The new Aviation Museum of Santa Paula and the Santa Paula Airport will be open to visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout the festival. The new exhibit opened in February and tells the story of the opening of the airport in 1930 and all the famous fliers from past to present. The Santa Paula Airport is home to a large collection of antique airplanes. Call 525-1109 to find out more.

The California Oil Museum will offer three special exhibits. The newly opened sixth annual De Colores Art Show showcases the best Latino art in Southern California. "Hidden Treasures From the Santa Paula Collection" presents Santa Paula Art Show winners from 1937 to 1977. And rare motorcycles from the Otis Chandler collection will be on display, including several of Steve McQueen's favorites. The museum number is 933-0076.

And Elsewhere: The 44th annual Conejo Valley Days festival is underway at Conejo Creek Park at the Janss Road exit of California 23. The event includes food and game booths along with a carnival, a commercial tent, bands, rodeos and other entertainment.

The carnival runs today from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and $3 for children 6-12. Children under 6 get in free. Today, there is a $12 flat rate for all rides.

The rodeo is Saturday at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m.

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