Attendance at Conejo Valley Days Falls 3rd Straight Year : Thousand Oaks: Ticket sales have dropped 27% since 1991 even though the price of admission has held steady.


Attendance at Thousand Oaks’ annual spring bash plummeted for the third straight year, as even perfect party weather failed to persuade recession-pinched residents to shell out money for Conejo Valley Days.

Ticket sales have dropped 27% in the past three years, festival organizers said, though the price of admission has held steady.

With carnival rides costing $1 to $2.50 a whirl and concessions bearing premium price tags, a family of four could easily spend upward of $40 for a day’s fun.


Although thousands decided they couldn’t miss Conejo Valley Days altogether, they tended to restrict their partying to one day, instead of trooping through the carnival several times over the five-day festival.

“It used to be that a family would come on Saturday, have a great time, grab their neighbors and say, ‘Let’s all go back tomorrow,’ ” Linda Graham, the event’s finance chairwoman, said. “Now, they can’t afford to come five days a week.”

This year, 44,101 people passed through the chain-link fences at Conejo Creek Park during the extravaganza. That’s 7,400 fewer visitors than in 1992, and nearly 17,000 fewer than in 1991, Graham said.

Wallet woes aside, some parents were reluctant to take their children to Conejo Valley Days because they feared the carnival would attract rowdy teen-agers, organizers speculated.

For the past three years, rumors of gang activity have plagued Conejo Valley Days, sparking fears of violence, police said.

But officers, who have identified most of the gang members in the area, now routinely stop them at the gate and warn them that “no problems will be tolerated,” said Mike Christensen, a senior deputy with the Sheriff’s Department.


The result: “A very quiet, very uneventful Conejo Valley Days,” Christensen said.

The 20 deputies who patrolled the carnival and parking lot at all times cited several minors for alcohol possession and arrested one person for public intoxication, but otherwise the fairgrounds were tranquil, Christensen said.

“It was a real family time,” agreed Steve Magruder, the event’s general chairman.

Perhaps because of the hot weather and a Chamber of Commerce campaign to “buy local,” carnival-goers spent more than ever before on drinks and food, organizers said.

Although final figures will not be available for a month, Graham said she believes the increased revenue from concession booths will make up for the drop in ticket sales. The chili cook-off and Grand Marshal’s campaign also raised more money than expected, offsetting a 2.5% decline in the revenue generated by carnival rides.

Conejo Valley Days lost about $25,000 last year because of falling attendance and because organizers mistakenly doled out donations before they had paid all the bills. But this year, Graham expects to balance the books or perhaps even record a small profit.

Ironically, the recession helped the committee cut costs even as it slashed ticket revenue. Desperate for contracts, the companies that supply insurance, fences and portable toilets lowered their fees by thousands of dollars, and the committee shopped around for bargains, Graham said.

If the event does turn a profit, the money will go toward paying off a debt to Thousand Oaks, Graham said. The city covered most of the festival’s shortfall last year by picking up the overtime tab for sheriff’s deputies and other payroll expenses.