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Salute to Eclecticism

Car show and ballroom dancing add diversity to Ojai's street festival fare.


That annoying weekend traffic that crawls through downtown Ojai, sending blood pressure higher than gas prices, will be temporarily gone Saturday. The heart of Ojai will be blocked off to all but pedestrian traffic for the annual Ojai Day celebration, a festival honoring the small town that wants to stay that way.

The town's name comes from the American Indian word "A-whai," which means moon or nest, a reflection of native Americans' belief in the mystical nature and metaphysical healing properties of the area that has been inhabited for more than 7,000 years. In 1837, Fernando Tico was granted more than 17,000 acres in the area by the Mexican government, a spread that became known as Rancho Ojay.

The place later was renamed Nordhoff in honor of a New York writer who wrote glowing travel pieces touting the curative powers of sanitariums in the area. The name of Nordhoff, perhaps sounding a bit too Germanic while our boys were fighting World War I, was changed to its present Ojai in 1917.

Celebrating the town's roots and its cultural diversity, Ojai Day has become a successful annual event since its inception a few years ago. Long a magnet for the artistic community, especially those who can afford to live there, Ojai Day will feature arts and crafts, too much food and plenty of music.

Local musicians include the Jimmy Calire Band, which will open festivities at 10:15 a.m., succeeded by the likes of Left of Memphis, Dan Wilson & Bud Bierhaus, Jonathan McEuen and Jesse Siebenberg, Green Man, Tall Paul & the Brazos Band, Nuestro, Paul Keim & Mary Murphy, Thin Ice, Jonathan Raffetto, John Marx & the Blues Patrol and plenty more. There will be three stages on Ojai Avenue: one at the Ojai Brew Pub, another at Calypso's Bar & Grill and one by the fountain in Libbey Park. So if they're not playing your song, walk a block to hear an entirely different soundtrack.

Reflecting the eclectic nature of the town itself, there will be plenty of diversity at this event--everything from a classic car and motorcycle show to ballroom dancing to hayrides. There will also be a separate Health & Wellness Area, and arts and crafts vendors from all over the Golden State will be hawking their wares. There will be a teen hangout area near the skate park, featuring a dunking booth full of Ojai law enforcement personnel.

The children's area will feature giant slides, a water maze, a puppet show, pony rides and the Mad Science exhibition from Camarillo. There will also be nonstop entertainment from a children's stage.

A festival veteran, Leslie Merical of Left of Memphis knows what's in store at this event.

"We played it last year," Merical said, "and we were just going to do our thing and leave, but we ended up staying all day and into the evening. We saw so much great music."

As if Ojai Day wasn't enough, there is an Ojai Night planned as well. While daytime is a dry event, there will be a beer and wine garden at night when the highlight figures to be a lasagna dinner on the lawn behind the arcade. There also will be Polynesian dancers doing what they do by torchlight and a Salad Toss contest, in which the creator of the winning salad recipe will receive a huge trophy.


Ojai Day, downtown Ojai, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; free; 646-1197. Evening activities begin at 6 p.m.


Performances To Grow On will present an evening of Asian arts in Ventura on Friday featuring the Khac Chi Ensemble and the Magical Moonshine Puppet Theatre Company.

Khac Chi has performed all over the world, offering intriguing glimpses into the musical traditions of Vietnam over its 400-year history. The ensemble plays music of the Vietnamese mountain people, using more than a dozen instruments few Westerners have even heard of, including the dan bau, which produces a rich, melodious sound reminiscent of the human voice, as well as the t'rung xylophone.

The Magical Moonshine group will perform a shadow puppet show that originated in Thailand. Also worldwide road-trippers, this group has received numerous awards and honors and is currently a member of the Touring Roster of the California Arts Council.


The Khac Chi Ensemble and the Magical Moonshine Puppet Theatre at the Church of Religious Science, 101 S. Laurel St., Ventura; 7:30 p.m. Friday; $12 advance, $15 at the door; $2 less for children; 643-1933.


The Santa Paula Ghost Walk is in full swing this weekend and next, providing exercise and history lessons, tall tales from yesteryear and a new route. Beginning at the Thelma Bedell Elementary School (where there is plenty of free parking), a fresh ghost walk tour commences every 15 minutes.

This seventh annual event will take place in the Oaks neighborhood, which is perfect for ghostly affairs because there are no street lights. The leisurely walk will last an hour.

Event chairwoman Mary Alice Henderson explained what's in store for the amateur ghost hunters who take the tour:

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