Conejo Valley Days to Draw 100,000 With Western Theme

As Oxnard gears up for its annual homage to the strawberry, the Thousand Oaks area is paying tribute to its history with Conejo Valley Days--five days of celebrations based on a Western theme.

Beginning Wednesday and continuing through Sunday, the 32nd annual edition of Conejo Valley Days is expected to draw more than 100,000 people to events ranging from rodeos and barbecues to a Western-wear contest for women and a parade with stagecoaches.

"The point is for the community to celebrate its Western heritage," said Steve Rubenstein, president of the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event. "People lose sight of the fact that we were a rural community. Twenty-five years ago, there were more people in the parade than there were people viewing it."

Conejo Creek Park at Center

Command-central for activities is Conejo Creek Park, where a carnival with a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and assorted kiddie rides is held daily. The park is situated on Janss Road east of Route 23.

Ongoing events on Saturday and Sunday include a wood pit barbecue featuring roast beef and baked beans from noon to 6 p.m. and a rodeo sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Assn. beginning at 1 p.m. both days.

Hundreds of volunteers work at concessions and generally help out at Conejo Valley Days, organizers said. Local service organizations operate food and game booths, earning a substantial portion of their annual operating budgets. The event over the years has raised almost $120,000 for Manna, the Conejo Valley's food bank, Westlake Meals on Wheels and other charities.

Admission Prices Listed

Admission to Conejo Valley Days is $2.50 for adults, $2 for students over 12 years old, and $1 for children over 7. Children 6 or under are admitted free. Hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. today; 5 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Women in traditional Western wear and "flash-dance Western wear" suitable for a night of two-stepping vie for a night in a local hotel at 7 p.m. today.

A junior rodeo for contestants under 17 years old, including a new peewee division for cowpokes 7 or under, takes place at 7 p.m. Friday.

A parade with 172 entries winds along Thousand Oaks Boulevard beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, with high school marching bands, antique cars, Clydesdale horses, unicycle riders, stagecoaches and floats.

And Conejo Valley Days won't end there. A chili cook-off, long the mainstay of the Western event with a loyal following of as many as 7,000 chili-fanciers, was rained out last week.

Organizers, who are crossing their fingers that rain won't wash out the entire celebration as it did in 1983, have rescheduled the cook-off for May 8. A children's parade, which also was rained out, has been scheduled for May 7.

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