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VENTURA COUNTY FAIR : Thousands Drawn to Latin-Style Fiesta Day : Festival: A little bit of Mexico comes to <i> El Norte</i> as troupes dance and make music that recalls home for many.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thousands of visitors were drawn to Ventura’s Seaside Park on Sunday for the Ventura County Fair’s annual Fiesta Day, a celebration of Latin music and tradition.

“This is the only day with Mexican events all day,” said Luis Jungo of Ojai. He brought his wife, Rosario, and their five children, who range in age from 8 to 14.

While some of Jungo’s children looked forward to the carnival rides on the midway, Luis Sr. came for the music and performances, which remind him of the land where he grew up.

The family, he said, would definitely make the afternoon Fiesta Show, a Spanish-language extravaganza with eight bands that packs the Grandstand Arena each year.

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“We feel like we are in Mexico” at the Fiesta Show, said Luis Sr., who enjoyed Fiesta Day with his family last year as well.

The activities began with a performance by Grupo Folklorico Cuicapan, a children’s troupe that offered traditional Latin American dances.

Three-year-old Daniela Pollard enjoyed the show so much that she danced along with the performers from the sidelines, said her mother, Lorena Pollard, who was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States 11 years ago.

The family drove up from Glendale at the urging of Pollard’s boyfriend, who works at a booth at the fair.

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“He told me about all the stuff going on today, and it all sounded interesting,” Pollard said as her daughter twirled on the grass. “Having all this Hispanic entertainment, it’s a nice change.”

Over at the Miller Stage, the band Extafis charmed the crowd in the bleachers with Spanish-language music lively enough to get some couples off the benches and onto the impromptu, hay-strewn dance floor in front of the risers.

“We love Latin music!” exclaimed Joe Pardo of Thousand Oaks, still breathless from spinning his wife, Caro, around the dance floor. “We like the beat and it’s easy to dance to. It’s just fantastic.”

The Pardos said they try to never to miss a Fiesta Day at the County Fair. Joe likes the tempo of Latin music and Caro cherishes the tunes because they remind her of Mexico City, where she grew up. The couple were married there 2 1/2 years ago.

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“I love (Mexico) and I love my music,” Caro said as they ambled off to see an exhibit or two before the next performance.

Attendance figures for Fiesta Day were not available Sunday, but officials said it is traditionally the best-attended day of the fair. It also usually falls on the fair’s last day, although this year the event fell on the fifth day. The 12-day festival will end next Sunday.

Overall attendance so far is down slightly from the same time last year, officials said. As of the end of Saturday’s festivities, 73,155 people had visited the 1994 fair, 6% fewer than the tally at the same day in 1993.

But since entertainment varies from year to year, such comparisons are not strictly valid until the fair is further along, said spokesman Devlin Raley.

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“There’s no way to do an apple and an apple out of this,” he said. “Here I am, comparing attendance for this Thursday, when we had sprint car racing, to the first Thursday last year, when we had the Charlie Daniels Band. I’m comparing Fiesta Day this Sunday to motocross from the first Sunday last year.”


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