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Ventura County

Conejo Valley Days to Weather the Storm

Organizers say only a heavy downpour will curtail activities at the 40th annual Thousand Oaks carnival, which features music, rides, food and games for the sake of charity.

May 03, 2003|Suzie St. John | Special to The Times

Conejo Valley Days was in full swing, but Dan Preston's voice was even louder than the surrounding din of fairgoers.

"Win yourself a new family member," he shouted from the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Assn. booth. There, for just 25 cents, customers get three chances to toss a ball into a small glass bowl and win a goldfish.

The booth is one of dozens at the 40th annual Conejo Valley Days carnival at Conejo Creek Park South in Thousand Oaks.

The event, which also features a parade at 9 a.m. today on Thousand Oaks Boulevard and a rodeo today and Sunday, benefits more than 20 charities.

"We've had the same price of three balls for a quarter for 30 years, so we see a lot of the same faces over and over every year," said Preston, a 19-year veteran with Ventura County Fire Station 31 in Westlake.

And how many people actually win? Last year, Preston said, firefighters gave out more than 2,500 goldfish and made close to $3,000, which is divided among various county charities.

Rain is predicted for the weekend, but Preston said his team plans to keep the booth open regardless.

"We're firemen, so we are used to working in the rain," he said. "We're going to stay staffed and stick it out."

Scott Wolfe, the event chairman, has been keeping close tabs on the weather reports, hoping they are wrong.

"We don't say the 'r' word; we refer to it as dust control," Wolfe said. "We plan to stay open until it's determined not to be a safe situation anymore."

Although the rides could be shut down by heavy rainfall, the rest of the carnival will stay open.

"There is a lot to do out here, and every minute we're open helps," Wolfe said.

Besides rides, the event features games, musical entertainment and food, including a new item that is fast becoming a crowd favorite: the deep-fried Twinkie.

"It's very sloppy but very sweet," Wolfe said.

Visitors can take shelter from the weather in the CVD Marketplace, a tent featuring a broad selection of commercial vendors.

Attendance for the first days of the event, which began Wednesday, has been good, Wolfe said. Last year's event total was about 45,000.

"We've had some cold nights but there has been a fairly good number of people coming out," Wolfe said.

Among those attending were Alyssa Wogahn, 9, and her mom, Joanna Wogahn, both of Thousand Oaks.

Alyssa was all smiles after getting off Kite Flyer, whose riders lie flat on their stomachs while it spins in the air.

"All the rides are really fun, but I like this one the best," said Alyssa, a third-grader at Weathersfield Elementary School in Thousand Oaks.

Joanna Wogahn said this is the fifth year they have attended Conejo Valley Days.

"I like it that [Alyssa's] having so much fun. Last year, I went on the rides with her, but this year I'm waiting for my husband to do it," she said.

Kristi Schattl, 17, and Michelle Baum, 15, said they enjoy the carnival because it gives them a chance to hang out with their friends and have fun.

Looking a little dazed after leaving the Hard Rock ride, on which eight people sit back-to-back in a tube that spins around and upside down, Kristi and Michelle agreed it was fun but said the Zipper is their favorite.

"You just get this weightless feeling and you're constantly spinning," said Michelle, a sophomore at Westlake High School. "It's the best, definitely."

The fair continues from noon to midnight today and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 general, $5 for students and seniors and $3 for children ages 6 through 12.

For details, call 371-8730 or check the Web site at www.conejovalleydays.com.

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