As an insurance underwriter, Kim Ruda is used to working 10-hour days. But his new role as chairman of Conejo Valley Days is about to change that.
Once the five-day western heritage celebration and carnival begins at 5 p.m. today, Ruda expects to work on the event almost nonstop through the weekend.
Taking time Tuesday to oversee the installation of roughly 40 midway rides and the placement of food booths and concession trailers, the Newbury Park resident compared the controlled chaos to a military operation.
"It's very busy, but very exciting," Ruda said as he walked through Conejo Creek Park South in Thousand Oaks, site of the 49th annual festival.
Last year, the carnival attracted 50,000 people and helped raise $100,000 for the nearly three dozen local charities that set up food and game booths. Nonprofit groups participating this year include Conejo YMCA, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and several booster organizations for high school bands and soccer teams, local churches and Boy Scout troops.
Kathy DuPont, director of administration for Conejo Valley Youth Employment Service, said her organization has been involved with the carnival for 41 years. Officials with the job counseling and referral program consider the event, where they will sell pizza by the slice, a major fundraiser.
"It's a significant portion of our budget," DuPont said. Receipts "can range from $10,000 to $25,000, and it really helps us keep our doors open."
Hospice of the Conejo changed its menu this year from fried chicken to tamales and Mexican pastries, hoping to generate additional sales, said Ed Troupe, the organization's executive director. "I expect tamales will go great," he said. "Overall, it'll provide more profit to us."
The Conejo Valley Days rodeo scheduled for Saturday and Sunday is expected to draw large crowds.
Entertainment will include a juggler, a ventriloquist, magicians, clog dancers, local teen rock bands, the Cal State Northridge Jazz Band and Saturday night's headliner, the Edgar Winter Band, said Kevin Rock, who has coordinated performances at the carnival for the last eight years.
He expects more than 1,000 people to come to hear '70s rocker Edgar Winter, whose hits include "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein."
Even though the event's south stage has seating for only about 400 people, Rock said, a larger turnout would not pose a problem.
"This isn't sit-down music," he said. "For Edgar, they're going to be standing and partying anyway."
Like everyone involved in organizing Conejo Valley Days, Rock is carefully monitoring the weather forecast, which calls for scattered showers to begin late this afternoon or Thursday morning, with a reduced chance of rain Friday and dry conditions through Monday. "There's no 'R' word this week; it's not allowed to be spoken," Rock joked.
Even more anxious about a downpour is Norm Tardif, coordinator of the Conejo Valley Days parade, set to start at 9 a.m. Saturday at Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Duesenberg Drive. Two days of heavy rain in 2003 canceled both the parade and carnival.
"We got rained out two years ago, and we thought it was a freak," Tardif said. "And now we're threatened again. It does put a damper on everything."
Bruce Rockwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard, said this week's precipitation should be mild. He expects rainfall of about a quarter of an inch.
Location: Conejo Creek Park South, south of Janss Road and east of California 23.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. today and Thursday; 5 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for 6- to 12-year-olds, free for children 5 and younger. Wednesday and Thursday are "Family Fun Nights" when attendees can pay $17 extra for unlimited amusement rides.
Parking: Limited parking at Conejo Creek Park South and extra parking across the street in the paved lots for the Thousand Oaks library, teen and senior centers. Free shuttles will be available.
For details online, go to www.conejovalleydays.com.