Merchants' Tent Has Carnival of Goods : Simi Valley Days: Offering tattoos, tae kwon do and rides, another part of the festival gets under way.


This year's Simi Valley Days carnival features the usual thrill rides and games of chance.

But for many, the real action is inside the Merchants' Tent, where the curious can acquire temporary tattoos, purchase handmade porcelain dolls, have their fortunes told or sign up for a tae kwon do class.

"It's a good mix," said Bruce Sands, organizer of the Merchants' Tent, which this year includes 41 booths, four more than last year.

The merchants' booths, along with the carnival, officially opened at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will be open tonight and Friday evening as well as all day Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the carnival and merchants' booths is $2. Tonight, however, children accompanied by their parents will be allowed in free.

Sands said many of the featured merchants and artists have participated before in the Simi Valley Days festival, which began last Friday.

Paul Larocco, whose business is selling and applying temporary tattoos, said this is his third year. Larocco, who owns a shop in Laguna Beach, said he travels to shows and fairs throughout the state year-round. He said not all fairs are alike.

"I did a chili cookoff at a nudist colony up in Devore a few months back," he said. "It was interesting."

Larocco said his best customers tend to be women, who favor small hearts and flowers on their forearms. For those designs, Larocco charges $3 to $5. He said that it takes only a few minutes to apply the tattoos, and that the novelties can easily be removed with soap and water in three to five days.

At another end of the tent is doll maker Marissa Escobar's booth. Escobar said this is her first time participating in the festival.

The Simi Valley resident said she has won a number of statewide contests for her porcelain creations during the past three years and thought the festival would be a good way to sell and promote her work.

Escobar said that in the past she has relied mostly on special orders that have come about from competitions that she has entered. She said two years ago she sold a doll--for which she won first place at the International Ceramics Show in Anaheim--for $2,800 to a Japanese businessman.

However, Escobar said most of the work that she will put on sale at the festival ranges from $150 to $240. But she said her dolls are unique because they are personalized.

"If somebody gives me a picture, I can make a face from the picture, then I make the mold and the doll," she said.

Visitors to the Merchants' Tent may also stop by Anne Merino's booth, where they can have their palms read for $5, or wander over to Darryl Washburn's booth, where they can sign up for tae kown do classes, which range anywhere from $145 to $530.

Outside on the midway are dozens of rides and attractions. Rides on everything from a miniature roller coaster to a 60-foot Ferris wheel are from $1 to $2.

Robert Stirling, a state inspector of amusement park rides, conducted a spot check of all 21 rides early Wednesday and said all will be up and running.

Stirling was among about 100 people--including maintenance workers, ride operators and security personnel--who were busy making sure that all last-minute details and safety precautions were taken care of before the gates opened.

Simi Valley Days Chairman Dick McCoy said about 60,000 people are expected to attend the five-day carnival this year. McCoy said he has put in about 1,400 hours in planning and organizing the festival, which also will run next weekend.

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