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Recalling Rural Roots

Mature Moorpark hasn't outgrown annual Country Days festival.


There's not too much country left in Moorpark, but it has a rich agricultural past. And it will return to its roots Saturday during Moorpark Country Days in the old part of the town.

Incorporated in 1983 and more than a dozen square miles in size, Moorpark is in the southeastern portion of Ventura County in what was once a strictly rural environment. The city has more than quadrupled in population over the last 20 years and has become a sedate bedroom community.

In 1887, Robert W. Poindexter was granted title to the site of the city, originally part of the Rancho Simi land grant. Names associated with the area included Fremontville, Penrose, Epworth, Fairview, Peach Hill and Little Simi.

But Poindexter settled all that when he named the place after the Moorpark variety of apricot, which was originally successfully planted in the area by Aratus Everett. According to the Western Garden Book, a Moorpark apricot is a "very large fruit, fine flavor." Not surprisingly, the offical flower of Moorpark is still the apricot blossom.

It was Poindexter who laid out the city streets and planted the California pepper trees that will provide shade in the downtown area for those who attend this year's event.

Moorpark originally held a Strawberry Festival, then an Apricot Festival, then a Harvest Festival, all celebrating local agriculture. The 21st annual Moorpark Country Days is the successor to those events.

This year's wingding will kick off with a 1 1/2-hour parade starting at 9:30 a.m., proceeding east on Poindexter Avenue from Chaparral Middle School, turning north on Moorpark Avenue, then east on High Street to Magnolia Street.

Six high school marching bands will compete for honors--the Moorpark Musketeers, the Hueneme Vikings, the Camarillo Scorpions and the Ventura High School Cougars, plus two out-of-county bands. The winning band will receive a trophy.

After the parade, a street fair will open along a half-mile stretch of High Street. The event flier promises celebrities, but don't expect Tom Cruise and Madonna. Instead, look for local politicians, a juggler named Jack Kalvan and a family of magicians, the Hamners.

Hometown heroes Jeremy Shoop & Ascension will provide the soundtrack for the younger set. Shoop already has one important fan, event chairwoman Debi Ryono. "He's really a neat kid," she said. "He graduated from high school a couple of years ago and has competed in Broadway musical things in New York."

As is common at such events, there will be plenty of food as well as arts and crafts vendors; in all, more than 75 booths of different types will line the street. Although not a full-blown carnival, there will be rides for the kids, including a Ferris wheel, and pony rides, face-painting and a rock-climbing apparatus.

Further, the Moorpark Historical Society will be dedicating bricks it sold during a recent centennial celebration. Those who bought bricks with their family name inscribed on them can see them installed during a ceremony in the park on High Street next to the gazebo.

Country Days is a good event for Moorpark, Ryono said, "because it gives people a chance to get downtown more. High Street has been down there for a century, and a lot of people don't get a chance to go down there because they shoot right out of town right away. This gives them an excuse to go downtown and see what's there."


Moorpark Country Days on High Street, 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. Saturday; free; 529-0322.


Bill Locey can be reached by e-mail at

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