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Small Town, Big Fun : Over 6,000 Turn Out for Parade and Festival in Moorpark

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Patrick McEwen remained calm Saturday when a grimy, shotgun-toting bank robber suddenly grabbed him from the crowd and hoisted him up as a shield.

That’s because it was all in jest.

The make-believe Western shootout, circa 1865, was one of the first events at the 11th annual Moorpark Country Days festival.

“I thought I was going to get shot,” said an excited Patrick, a third-grader at Moorpark’s Campus Canyon Elementary School.

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Members of the California Gunfighters--dressed in period cowboy gear and firing off blanks from authentic guns--entertained festival-goers with a number of Wild West re-enactments. The mock gun battles were just part of the fun on a sunny day that featured a roisterous parade, street fair, games, artisans and barbecues.

Many festival-goers began grabbing spots early on the parade route along Poindexter Avenue and High Street, setting out blankets and lawn chairs on sidewalks and curbsides. By 9:30 a.m. when the parade began, festival-goers were packed in elbow-to-elbow and standing five or six deep along much of the route.

“You won’t see any glitz here like you do on Sunset Boulevard, but this is downtown Moorpark and we love it,” said Moorpark resident Tom Montgomery, 37, who watched with his wife, Teresa, and their daughters Jessica, 5, and Sarah, 3.

“People have a real sense of community here,” said Montgomery, a computer programmer. “There’s still a small-town feel here and everyone gets involved in this, even though it can be a little comical at times.”

Hand-waving parade dignitaries, cruising in shiny new convertibles and vintage automobiles, included U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) and state Assemblyman Nao Takasugi (R-Oxnard).

But the crowd seemed to be most excited about the youngest paraders. The procession was filled with Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, soccer teams, high school cheerleaders and marching bands, church groups and many others, some frolicking on the back of flatbed trucks.

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“Half the kids in this community are in this parade,” said co-organizer Carolyn Schrimpf.

Della Mendoza, sitting in the shade of a sprawling pepper tree, decided to skip her hometown celebration in Port Hueneme to attend the Moorpark festivities.

“I came today to see my great-grandchild walk in the parade with his soccer team,” said Mendoza, 63.

Ventura sheriff’s deputies, patrolling on motorcycles, horseback and foot, said the throngs at the festivities were well-behaved.

“What a great crowd,” said Deputy Tim Hagel, who was on horseback. “It’s been totally quiet. This is a real family atmosphere.” Lt. Geoff Dean estimated the crowd at about 6,500.

Dotting the parade route was an eclectic offering of arts, crafts and other wares, including T-shirts emblazoned with “Where in the World Is Moorpark?”

Nina Beaulien, a Moorpark resident since 1967, found a shady spot to set up her wooden, foot-pedal-powered yarn spinner.

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Although the 70-year-old Beaulien was spinning pink-dyed wool Saturday, she also exhibited examples of other fibers--including the stuff she recently spun from her daughter’s long brunette hair. “She cut it off and I said, ‘You give that to me!’ ”

Hanging next to the brunette locks were thick strands, dyed light blue and also ready to be quilted. “That’s the hair from my poodle,” she said.

Although the community celebration continued until about 5:30 p.m., Jim and Lori Motush of Moorpark decided to call it quits about 1 p.m. after four hours at the festival. Packing up their green van with strollers and three tired children, Jim Motush said: “This is the best year yet.”

Organizers said two more fund-raiser events will be held for Moorpark Country Days. A “5K, 10K & One Mile Run Run/Walk” will be held at 6 a.m. today at Moorpark High School. A Columbus Day spaghetti dinner at the Moorpark Senior Center will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Moorpark Senior Center.

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