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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | THE BUSINESS BEAT

Harbor Village Slips Into Its Quieter Winter Identity

October 31, 2000|ALEX FIELD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — As the sun peeks over the horizon on a chilly Saturday morning, local fishermen gather behind Andria's Seafood Restaurant, peddling their catch to the early morning walkers and fish-market regulars.

But the bustling days of Ventura Harbor Village's tourist season are waning, and as the seaside haven prepares for winter, it takes on two distinct personalities.

On weekends, families and out-of-towners are still drawn by the fresh-fish market and mini-festivals staged by the harbor's operators. The weekend harbor is a family-friendly stop, with activities for adults and children, including a petting zoo, Kids Harborland, live entertainment in restaurants and a jolly jump. Recently, events such as the Kinetic Sculpture Race have drawn locals and tourists to the harbor's shops and stores.

But things are slower during the workweek, with only a few locals walking the docks. The midweek harbor finds most of its visitors on boats. At the Harbor Village Carousel, the silent painted horses wait for the occasional child.

Over the years, the harbor's merchants have worked hard to draw more people on weekends, said Teona Brown, marketing director for Harbor Village. And it appears to be working.

"It's really gotten to be busier all year long," Brown said. "It's a safe place for people to come and just enjoy themselves, and there are a lot of things for kids to do.

"All the stores and restaurants are open during the week. But during the summertime, there are more events. During the winter, it's just a nice quiet place to get away for the day."

Things will pick up again during the Christmas season with numerous holiday festivities, beginning with the annual Parade of Lights on Dec. 16. More than two dozen boaters are expected to participate in the parade, Brown said.

With ocean-themed T-shirts, shell shops and boatyards, shoppers see the harbor as a place to find unique holiday gifts, she said.

"I think that's where we get a lot of people during the holidays, doing their holiday shopping," Brown said.

The fisherman's market, sponsored by the Ventura Port District, is a Harbor Village mainstay where people choose between lobster, crabs, shrimp and fish, including halibut, shark and yellowtail.

"There is usually a line of people waiting for the market to open around 7 or 8 o'clock," said Sandy Delano, Property Manager for the Ventura Port District. "Sometimes we even have somebody selling strawberries. And it's growing."

Eric Hooper, who co-founded the market in 1998, showed off a swordfish he caught on a recent day, weighing in at just over 300 pounds.

Hooper, who puts in 80 hours a week on a boat, said that when he opened the market with other fishermen, he sold 200 pounds of halibut the first day.

"But I didn't start this to be rich or anything," Hooper said. "I started this because I love to fish and I love the ocean."

Prices for the fish are generally lower than that found in grocery stores, locals say. Upon request, fishermen also will clean and filet a buyer's purchase.

"I don't think I've bought fish from a regular grocery store since this market opened," Delano said.

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