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Ventura County Fair Lures Thousands

August 05, 2004|Arianne Aryanpur | Times Staff Writer

Heidi Bergenfeld could have gone to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, which is a bit closer to her home.

Instead, as she does every year, she drove daughters Shira, 8, and Adina, 5, 70 miles from Los Angeles to catch opening day at the Ventura County Fair at Seaside Park.

Ventura's tame crowds and unbeatable weather keep them coming back, Bergenfeld said as the girls soared on their stomachs on "Cliff Hanger," a ride that simulates hang gliding.

"It was so cool," Shira said Wednesday as she stepped off the ride. "It felt like you were flying."

The Bergenfelds were among thousands who came from near and far on the first day of the 12-day event, which features a variety of musical acts, arts and crafts exhibits, livestock shows, rodeos, nightly fireworks and thrill rides.

Before the gates opened, Brittney Christopherson, 9, sat in line with her grandmother, Diane. The two were visiting from Brady, Neb., where the fair apparently is not as big, or as much fun.

"They don't have as many rides," said Brittney, eyeing the top of the Ferris wheel from her grandmother's lap. More than 40 rides and attractions, including a bungee jump, haunted house and super slide are included at the Ventura event.

Once the park gates opened, 4-H friends Laurene McCarthy, 10, of Ojai and Ashley Cekov, 11, of Camarillo bolted for the arts and crafts exhibits. Laurene, who has entered the fair's art competition since she was 7, submitted a quilt and several paintings this year.

The girls roamed the crafts tent long enough to spot Laurene's submissions -- and noticed that she had won several ribbons -- then headed for what they had been waiting for all morning: "Starship 3000," a dizzying ride that resembles a spaceship.

As the ride began, Ashley giggled uncontrollably, trying to battle the gravitational force that plastered her upright body to the spinning wall as the floor dropped below.

Moments later, the girls stumbled out of the ride, but Laurene said she would go on the "Starship" again before the day was done.

At the nearby "Kamikaze," where passengers sit in cages that turn on a frame similar to a Ferris wheel, Jorge Espenoza, 11, and Cortney Johnson, 10, of Ventura looked on as their friends braved the ride. They decided just to watch, calling the rapid spins and upside-down dangling scary.

When the spinning stopped, Cortney's sister, Chante, 11, stepped off, unfazed. "I wasn't scared," she said. Her friend, Molly Ryans, 11, had a different reaction.

"She was having a heart attack," Chante said. "She kept on screaming and I was laughing."

Fair organizers said they were pleased with Wednesday's attendance but expected larger crowds this weekend, when musical acts were scheduled to take the stage. Country music star Brad Paisley will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and the Village People will perform at the same time Saturday.

"He's one of the big acts," fair spokesman John Lockhart said of Paisley. "We expect that there will be a big turnout that will kick off a big weekend."

The annual fair is not all about the rides, livestock shows and concerts. Food vendors offer a variety of temptations, including funnel cakes, corn on the cob and cotton candy.

Debbi Bills, 50, Linda Fazzone, 61, and Nancy Wagnor, 53, all of Oxnard, were discussing what they wanted to eat. Bills was looking forward to the Apple Tower -- chopped apples, caramel and whipped cream in a cup.

Fazzone had a taste for the bratwurst. "I only eat it when I'm here," she said. "I don't even know what's in it, but it can't be good."

Wagnor said she planned to return to the fair twice more, once with her children and once to watch the Village People.

For now, though, she was looking forward to spending a leisurely day with her friends.

"You'll probably see us at 11 tonight," Wagnor said. "We usually close the place."

*

Fair highlights

Hours: Gates open at 11 a.m. All exhibits close at 10 p.m. Carnival and midway open till 11 p.m.

Location: 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Seaside Park in Ventura.

Admission: $7 general; $4 for those 62 years and older and for children 6 to 12; free for children 5 and younger.

Today's event: Motor sports, demolition derby, 6 p.m.

More information: (805) 648-3376; www.seasidepark.org/vcfair or www.coolfair.com.

Source: Ventura County Fair Board

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